Suicide continues to devastate families in Moffat County, as the area has a higher suicide rate than the state and national average.
That’s why Ronna Autrey who leads REPS (Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide), a Yampa Valley organization, is going to host a public suicide prevention class at Colorado Northwestern Community College Sept. 14.
“September is suicide prevention month and one of the reasons we did this was to raise awareness,” she said.
Autrey runs the courses on a regular basis to teach teens and adults how to identify suicidal tendencies and how to respond to someone who wants to take their own life.
“Craig, for the population size, has a high suicide rate and we want to educate the public on what to do when they encounter somebody who is suicidal,” Autrey said.
Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz has seen enough suicide in the community to feel jaded, he said.
A substantial part of the problem is that men who experience rage problems don’t seek out help because depression is stigmatized in the community, he said.
“The perception is that you’re not a manly man if you see a counselor,” Jantz said. “That has to change. Because it’s ok to talk to someone.”
The change has to happen at a community-wide level, he said. Men in the community need to support each other and recognize mental health problems as a legitimate illness. Macho attitudes and bullying can factor into the negative perception of depression, he added.
“Guys can be pretty brutal. It’s that coarse joking that contributes to that,” Jantz said. “It’s not weak to ask for help.”
Autrey also wants to challenge misconceptions about depression.
“Depression and other illnesses are diseases that can be cured,” she said.
She wants to help people start conversations with their friends, family and co-workers. It’s valuable just to get a coffee with someone you are concerned about, she said.
“If someone is suicidal and you ask them they will tell you the truth,” Autrey said. “If we train you and tell you what to do when they say yes, now you know what to do.”
Autrey is passionate about this issue because of her own experience with depression and suicide. Autrey’s son killed himself more than 11 years ago, and she and her family were hit hard.
“These things are traumas that affects our brain chemistry for a while,” she said, “Does that mean we are weak people? No.”
Depression isn’t always easy to see. People who have mental health issues may not demonstrate clearly what help they need.
“It’s really important that we, as the public, recognize the clues,” she said. Sometimes “their clues come out garbled.”
The class will provide the basic know-how for how to identify warning signs and how to start conversations with people who might be suicidal. It will take place from 9 to 10:30 a.m. in room 175 at CNCC.
Erin Fenner can be reached at 970-875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org