Panel discusses factors related to suicide | CraigDailyPress.com

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Panel discusses factors related to suicide

Ronna Autrey, of Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, shares her "survivor story," which she said compels her to work and spread awareness regarding suicide and depression during Thursday's community suicide prevention forum at The Memorial Hospital.Shawn McHugh

— Kelsey Grinstead attended Thursday's suicide prevention forum in Craig for one person — herself.

The 17-year-old Moffat County High School senior was there, at The Memorial Hospital, in hopes of understanding what affects more people her age everyday.

"I want to be able to help someone open up to me and be able to watch for signs if someone is suicidal," said Grinstead, a junior staff member at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig.

Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide hosted the forum.

Anthony Noble, of

A & S Counseling, Peggy Sammons and Barb Seed, of Craig Mental Health, and Ronna Autrey, of REPS, led the community discussion.

Nearly 50 area residents crowded into a hospital meeting room to hear presentations, survivor stories, and ask questions.

The forum speakers said they were pleased to see such large attendance numbers as they hoped to raise community awareness.

"The biggest impact we can have is just bringing awareness that symptoms that lead up to suicide are treatable," Seed said. "It can be preventable in many instances."

The forum began with a presentation from Noble, who explained several biological causes for depression and suicidal thoughts.

He said thoughts of suicide, in most cases, are triggered by specific neurotransmitter changes and serotonin depletion in the brain.

He also discussed various depression medications, activities that help curb depression, such as exercise and interactive relationships, and a range of other mental issues from bipolar disorder to schizophrenia.

"We're biogenetically programmed to be connected with other people in mutually satisfying relationships," he said. "When that fails, you start to see these kinds of things occur."

Sammons discussed the misconceptions about suicide such as it being "no longer considered a selfish act, a sin or self murder."

She also said the medical community no longer considers suicide to be a purely mental problem. The speakers agreed that biological seeds, physical pain and environmental issues factor into the issue.

Sammons also discussed signals and symptoms a suicidal person sometimes exhibits, including an overwhelming sense of worry and guilt.

"We also find that their sense of identity is in turmoil, and one small event can send them spiraling," she said.

Autrey and Seed shared their "survivor stories," as well. They said their backgrounds compel them to work and spread awareness about suicide and depression many years later.

Seed lost her brother to suicide, and Autrey lost her son.

Seed said that Western Slope residents tend to be at a greater risk of depression and suicide as result of a prevailing area attitude.

"People tend to live here because they are more independent spirited," she said. "They want to believe that they can take care of themselves, that they don't need help.

"I think there is still a real stigma around seeking help, and when you couple the stigma with this Western attitude of 'Just pull up your boot straps and take care of it,' it can become a real problem," she said.

Seed said the lack of sunlight in the winter that residents endure can contribute to seasonal depression, also called Seasonal Affective Disorder.

"The brain needs the endorphins from the sun and so if you're prone to depression anyway, and we go through these long winters with reduced sunlight, that can amplify depression," she said.

But all of the forum hosts said there still is hope in the face of depression and suicide.

"We, as a group, can come together and work through the process of understanding that this happens, and we can do our grieving and we also offer support to those who have attempted but have not succeeded," Noble said.