New bereavement group in Craig will help people who have lost a loved one to suicide

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— On average, five people each year in Moffat County will take their own lives, said Ronna Autrey, executive director of Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide. Those suicide deaths have a widespread impact, devastating loved ones, friends and co-workers, she said.

That’s why it’s high time Moffat County have a support group for people who have lost loved ones to suicide, and why she and Sandy Beran — spiritual, bereavement and volunteer coordinator for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association — are taking on that mission, Autrey said. Beran will start leading a bereavement group at Colorado Northwestern Community College on Tuesday.

“The support group is really a needed thing. First of all, you’re in total shock, and then after that shock wears off, you have a story to tell and you keep wanting to tell it, but you don’t feel like anyone wants to hear it anymore,” Autrey said.

The bereavement groups would provide a space for people to share that story, Beran said.

“People will have a chance to share the unique feelings and the emotions that come with losing someone to suicide and be with others that can understand more,” Beran said.

Moffat County has a higher suicide rate than the rest of Colorado, Autrey said.

“The whole Rocky Mountain area has a high suicide rate. Moffat and Routt (counties) are really high in that area,” Beran said. “I don’t know if it’s because we’re more isolated, and what are the factors. It’s sometimes hard to reach out and let other people know we need help.”

No one can say for sure exactly why those numbers are so high, Autrey said, but there are some factors that distinguish the counties.

“In many cases, it’s not just depression on board or bipolar disorder, but also substance abuse: self-medicating with drug and alcohol, which are depressants, and (they) don’t make it any better and in many cases lower the inhibitions to commit suicide,” she said.

Also worth considering is that most suicide deaths in the two counties are firearm-related, Autrey said. Moffat County has the second-highest rate of suicide in the state, and Routt County comes right behind it in third, she said.

“One thing we do know is (easier) access to firearms,” Autrey said.

The class will help guide people through their grief, whether it’s new or old, Autrey said.

“It really helped me as a survivor and in my journey toward recovery. I had to talk to people who understood how my brain was functioning. Those groups really helped me, and I tried to start them here to help others,” she said. “It’s a safe place for people to go to talk and not be judged. I just can’t stress the importance enough of a group like this.”

The group will meet twice each month, every other Tuesday, at 6 to 7 p.m. at CNCC.

Contact Erin Fenner at 970-875-1794 or efenner@CraigDailyPress.com.

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