Suicide numbers on positive trend

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— Suicide trends are hard to measure, but the current trend is good news for Moffat County officials who are involved with the issue.

"The trends are that successful suicides are down and people getting help are up," said Anngie Jenkins, the Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide coordinator and Victim Assistance Program director. "It makes us hope that there is additional awareness out there and that people are making a difference."

In 2006, there were eight completed suicides in Moffat County, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health. In 2007, there was one recorded suicide. There have been none this year.

The Craig Regional Communication Center's statistics of suicide-related incidents - threats, attempts and completed suicides - are on an upward trend. In 2006, there were 33 calls. In 2007, there were 50 calls. Through June 12, 2008, there were 18 incidents.

The statistics are a small sample size and fairly broad, but Jenkins said that efforts for awareness and people wanting to reach out go along with the trends.

"Increased numbers of people calling for help or coming to the hospital or mental health for help shows that something is going on," she said. "There have been newspaper stories and seminars and public information that gives people a chance to know there is help out there."

Everyone interviewed from city police to mental health professionals to hospital officials say the numbers are hard to measure, but they hope the trend continues.

"The drop is an encouragement to everybody," Craig Police commander Bill Leonard said. "It's hard to say what leads to it, but overall the need for awareness is being stressed in our community."

The Police Department sent an officer to the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training at the beginning of June. The officer will use the two-day seminar to train others in the department, Leonard said.

Beka Warren, chief quality officer at The Memorial Hospital, reviews the cases of hospital admittances relating to suicide. She then sends them on, without a patient's name attached, to Jenkins.

"This is definitely a team effort," she said. "More and more people are learning that depression and suicidal tendencies aren't untreatable or that there is a bad stigma with the struggles."

In addition to the "Yellow Ribbon Campaign" that is a program in the Craig schools, Warren said efforts to reach middle-aged men have increased.

"We looked at our own data and realized that middle-aged men are the highest risk," she said. "The awareness of who we were looking to help was important."

Mental health officials used that data to launch a "Real Men, Real Depression" campaign four years ago. Tom Gangel, the Craig Mental Health division director, said he thinks the broad-reaching efforts of everyone as well as specific approaches to certain demographics have been positive.

"Suicide affects every aspect of lifestyle," he said. "What we've tried to do is get info out there to everyone."

And everyone includes family, friends and co-workers, he said.

Jenkins hopes the trend of awareness and outreach will affect the county for years to come.

"It seems like we hear about more people reaching out for help or to others," she said. "If someone would like to be a part of a community organization reaching out, they can join REPS or attend an ASIST seminar. They have both helped the awareness in the community."

To be a part of REPS or for more information, call Jenkins at 826-2329.

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