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Colorado, we’ve got a problem


Yup, I’m talking about it AGAIN. The Legislature? Done that. Bipartisanship? Not happening right now. Yes, suicide prevention — that taboo topic no one wants to talk about, but is reaching epidemic proportions in Colorado. We know far too painfully that in Denver metro alone, we’ve lost three more teenagers to suicide, ironically concurrently with Suicide Prevention Month.

When is this trend going to stop? Never. Unless we talk about it and do something now. As a suicide loss survivor, neighbor, and member of the Colorado Suicide Prevention Commission, I am compelled to speak out and act personally and systemically. Here’s why.

First, the hard facts: Suicide is the seventh leading cause of death for all Coloradans. For comparison, the number of suicides deaths has now exceeded the number of deaths from homicide, motor vehicle crash, breast cancer, influenza and pneumonia, and diabetes. Yet our volunteer hours and government and private dollars dedicated to those other causes far outweigh what we do for suicide prevention in this state. Why? Because no one wants to talk about it.

If you are between the ages of 45-64, you’re in the age group with the highest number of suicide deaths. If you’re between ages 10-34, suicide is the second leading cause of death for your group. (Yes, kiddos as young as 10 have completed suicide.) Finally, Colorado is consistently in the top 10 suicide rates in the country. Convinced yet we have a problem?

Here are a few ways you can be a part of the solution:

• Talk about it! — Let’s debunk the myth that talking about suicide instigates it. The research shows that talking about it actually reduces the risk. Discussing it may also uncover potential solutions or resources for professional help that can make a difference.

• If you see or hear something, say something — Often, we hear after a suicide about someone who had heard that person talking about being depressed, harming themselves, or having suicidal thoughts. Your fear is not an excuse. Talk to them directly or submit a confidential tip to a family member, school staff, or suicide prevention hotline. You might save someone’s life.

• Temporary off-site storage for firearms when a family member or friend is in crisis — When an emotional crisis (like a relationship breakup, job loss, legal trouble) or a major change in someone’s behavior (like depression, violence, heavy drinking) causes concern, storing guns outside the home for a while may save a life.

• If it’s you — If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or thoughts of suicide, tell someone you trust or seek out help from a professional. Below are some confidential resources. There is ALWAYS hope, always someone you can talk to. There are numerous stories of people who have had those same thoughts (or have even attempted) who have come out on the other side with a productive, joyous life after getting help. I personally know many.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline — 1-800-273-TALK (8255) (toll-free)

Colorado Crisis & Support Line — 1-844-493-TALK (8255) (toll-free)

Colorado Office of Suicide Prevention — www.colorado.gov/cdphe/how-you-can-help-prevent-suicide

Man Therapy Program — mantherapy.org

Youth Suicide Prevention Services — www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/youth-suicide-prevention

Please take action today! You might just save a life.

Linda Newell has termed out as the state senator of Senate District 26 and is now educating people on how to understand and influence their government. She may be reached at senlindanewell@gmail.com, www.lindanewell.org, www.senlindanewell.com, @sennewell on Twitter, and Senator Linda Newell or @TheLastBill on Facebook.


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