Our View: A proportional response

The numbers speak loudly.

Colorado's suicide rate ranks as the seventh highest in the country. The suicide rate in the Rocky Mountain region is 40 percent above the national average.

Ten people - four in Moffat County, six in Routt County - have died at their own hands this year alone.

It is certainly tragic that so many of our local and state residents found the rational to commit what many view as the ultimate irrational act.

But, in grasping for what little good can be gained from these actions, perhaps - and unwittingly so - our fallen friends, family members and neighbors can be our greatest teachers on this unsettling subject.

And what do they say to us?

Suicide has grown to become a problem that is no longer merely a private matter.

Instead, it has evolved into a legitimate public health concern, and a potential threat not only to our children and young adults, but people of all ages, incomes, races and occupations.

We believe suicide doesn't merely hurt the person who commits the act.

Rather, like stones rippling through a pond, it sends a shockwave through the community, crippling those left behind in its wake, leaving a lifetime emotional scar that, in many cases, will never heal.

Area experts, namely those at Colorado West Regional Mental Health, and the volunteer agency it funds and coordinates, Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, are at a loss to discover the tie that binds those who commit suicide in our area.

The board believes their continued work is imperative to stemming the tide of this problem.

Their job is monumental, and their need for further support is great.

Mental Health, which serves Moffat and Routt counties, recently received word from the Colorado Trust, an independent grant foundation, that it will receive $60,000 in grant money in the next three years.

The money will be used for suicide prevention, intervention and education.

However, there is a catch with the grant.

The allocation is contingent upon Mental Health matching the Colorado Trust money dollar for dollar.

The prospect of losing out on grant money, particularly now, comes as a great risk to Mental Health and its suicide efforts. A previous Colorado Trust grant, worth $150,000 during a three-year period beginning in 2004, expired in April.

Now is not the time for less money aimed at this problem.

As these words are written and read, know that there most likely is someone in our community going through a time that seems dire, or facing circumstances from which he or she believes there is no way out.

There most likely is someone, at this very moment, contemplating suicide.

We owe it to him or her, and to ourselves, to respond to this social problem with support.

And that support can come in a variety of ways.

It can come through contacting Mental Health and inquiring about ways to donate.

It can mean asking the organization about volunteer opportunities.

Or it simply can mean learning the symptoms that people feeling suicidal exhibit, being able to spot those symptoms, being strong enough to talk and listen to someone feeling suicidal and imploring him or her to seek professional help.

This issue no longer deserves its long-held negative stigma, but instead an openness that promotes dialogue and proportional response to a problem that has grown out of proportion.

Only then will suicide, an issue that has screamed out in recent years, be silenced.

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