State suicide rate highest in 2 decades |

State suicide rate highest in 2 decades

Michelle Balleck

Highest number ever.

That's the sobering reality Jarrod Hindman is faced with.

Hindman, program manager for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Office of Suicide Prevention, announced Tuesday that in 2009, Colorado saw its highest number of suicide deaths in history.

A total of 940 Coloradans completed suicides in 2009 — a number higher than motor vehicle crashes and homicides combined — which marks 18.4 deaths per 100,000 residents, the highest rate the state has seen since 1988.

"Certainly I was discouraged when I saw the 2009 data," Hindman said. "We are generally 40 percent above the national average, and are regularly in the top 10 of suicide rates in the country.

"But, I'm hoping we can explain it well because we're doing some really fantastic things in Colorado."

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The announcement of the 2009 statistics came just days before World Suicide Prevention Day, which is observed today.

Hindman said though the number and rate of suicides in 2009 were high, it's too early to identify a trend. As future years' statistics become available, trends will present themselves.

But for 2009, Hindman attributes a rise to a high unemployment rate, which generally corresponds with an increased rate of suicide, coupled with foreclosures and the recession in general.

Locally, mental health professionals said suicide death numbers have been "steady" in recent years. There were five suicide deaths in both Moffat and Routt counties in 2009. There have been five suicide deaths in each county thus far in 2010.

"It is troubling," said Ronna Autrey, suicide prevention coordinator for Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide (REPS) in the two counties. "The people who have died have not sought help, which is what we're trying to reach out and keep from happening."

REPS organizes Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Trainings, community forums and educational projects in Yampa Valley communities to assist residents in identifying risk factors, and helping their friends, family members and coworkers seek treatment.

"We feel that some of our programs are working," Autrey said, noting that Craig Mental Health has seen a recent increase in clients. "The good news is more people are seeking help, and we want to encourage them to seek help. There's people they can turn to to get help, and not get so desperate and down that they give up."

Hindman had a similar view, saying the state's programs take time to show their effectiveness and one year's data will not deter his mission.

"The reality is … we have done a ton of great stuff in Colorado, and it takes a long time to see changes in rates," Hindman said. "We've seen a lot more people much more aware of the importance of suicide prevention efforts. … To me, that's the value of what we're doing."

Autrey said both counties offer sliding fee scale counseling and payment options for those in need.

"There's ways to get help, even if you don't have insurance and you've lost your job," Autrey said. "We need people to seek help and know that there's community resources to help them."

Hindman, who stressed that suicide is a public health issue, not simply an individual problem, said those struggling need to realize that people in their communities want to help.

"Understand that there is help available," Hindman said. "The reality is, there's someone a phone call away."

For more information about mental health offerings, call Craig Mental Health at 824-6541, or Steamboat Mental Health at 879-2141.

Help is also available 24/7 by calling 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK.

For more information about Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, call Ronna Autrey at 846-8182.

If you go

What: Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide meeting

When: Noon Thursday

Where: The Memorial Hospital, 750 Hospital Loop, in Craig

For more information about REPS, call Ronna Autrey at 846-8182.

What: Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide meeting

When: Noon Sept. 24

Where: Concordia Lutheran Church, 755 Concordia Lane, in Steamboat Springs

For more information about REPS, call Ronna Autrey at 846-8182.

Need to talk?

Call 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK for 24/7 help.

Suicide rates

Suicide death rates for the past decade:


2000 — 612

2001 — 717

2002 — 724

2003 — 718

2004 — 792

2005 — 795

2006 — 724

2007 — 805

2008 — 801

2009 — 940

Moffat County

2000 — 4

2001 — 4

2002 — 5

2003 — 3

2004 — *

2005 — 6

2006 — 8

2007 — *

2008 — 3

2009 — 5

2010 to date — 5

Routt County

2000 — *

2001 — *

2002 — 4

2003 — *

2004 — 4

2005 — 5

2006 — *

2007 — 4

2008 — 9

2009 — 5

2010 to date — 5

* = Not reported due to 0, 1 or 2 suicide deaths

Source: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide

Warning signs

Changes in activity or energy level such as:

• Decreased energy

• Fatigue

• Lethargy

• Diminished activity

• Insomnia or hypersomnia

• Loss of interest in pleasurable


• Social withdrawal

Physical changes:

• Unexpected aches and pains

• Weight loss or gain

• Decreased or increased appetite

• Psychomotor agitation or


Emotional pain:

• Prolonged sadness

• Unexplained, uncontrollable crying

• Feelings of guilt

• Feelings of worthlessness

• Loss of self-esteem

• Despair

• Hopelessness/helplessness

Difficult moods:

• Irritability

• Anger

• Worry/anxiety

• Pessimism

• Indifference

• Self-critical

Changes in thought patterns:

• Inability to concentrate

• Indecision

• Problems with memory

• Disorganized

Preoccupation with death:

• Thoughts of death

• Suicidal ideation

• Feeling dead or detached

Source: Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide

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