Editorial: Searching for support

Editorial board members:

• Matt Beckett

— Community representative

• Brad King

— Community representative

• Allan Reishus

— Community representative

• Bryce Jacobson

— Newspaper representative

• Jerry Martin

— Newspaper representative

Our View

With suicide rates in Colorado and especially on the Western Slope much higher than the national average, the editorial board finds the lack of a local support system for those who need help dealing with suicide troubling. Because state and local agencies appear to lack the resources and public support to deal with the issue, it may be up to community members to make sure Moffat County residents affected by suicide have an option for getting help at the local level.

Suicide is a problem in Colorado.

According to Center for Disease Control data for 2010 — the most current year for which complete data is available — Colorado’s suicide rate of 17.2 per 100,000 people is the eighth highest rate for any state in the country.

And experts seem to agree that the problem is even bigger on the Western Slope. Sheila Linwood, a mental health associate from the Grand Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center, put the rate in Moffat County at 25 per 100,00, almost two-and-a-half times the national average of 10.7.

To make matters worse, residents of Moffat County who are experiencing or know someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts will have a hard time finding options for how to get help at the local level.

In an article published in the Jan. 21 Craig Daily Press Ronna Autrey, founder of the Steamboat-based Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, talked about how repeated efforts to maintain a suicide support group in Craig didn’t pan out. Craig Mental Health Program Director Gina Toothaker told a similar tale, saying people often request support groups but attendance always is very low.

As this editorial board has stated before, the dedicated people at organizations like Craig Mental Health and REPS deserve credit for all the work they do. The absence of a local suicide support group isn’t indicative of a lack of skills or passion, but rather a reflection of the lack of resources and public support they have to deal with this issue.

The same can be said about the leaders of local Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous groups, who offer residents with substance dependencies — a group statistically way more prone to suicide — the support of their peers, which is a very powerful resource.

However for residents not associated with those groups, it can be hard finding a local expert to talk with about suicide. Sure there is a national suicide hotline available at 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK — and board members encourage anyone who is worried about suicide claiming themselves or someone they love to call if they don’t know where else to go — but members contend having access to a local option would be a much more effective deterrent.

If that option doesn’t come via a non-profit organization or government agency, it may be up to us, the people of Moffat County, to create it. Whether it comes in the form of a local hotline, phone tree or simply by residents volunteering to share their own experiences with suicide, the editorial board firmly believes giving the issue a more prominent place in community conversation can only help.

And in the struggle to lower the suicide rate in our community, the residents of Moffat County should take all the help we can get.

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