Subject of suicide no longer taboo

Week of prevention ends, efforts continue

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— As Suicide Prevention Week comes to an end today, a licensed clinical social worker believes the public is not totally informed about the issue, its causes or the help that is available.

For the past two years, Carol Gordon has been working in the area of suicide prevention through her private practice and the Suicide Crisis Intervention Life Line, which was formed in 1998.

The intervention group was formed because of Routt County's suicide rate, which is higher than the state and national averages.

Since 1995, 25 suicide deaths have occurred in the county.

To be able to fully tackle the issue, Gordon believes the public needs to understand suicide should not be looked upon as shameful or a "coward's way out."

"Suicide in our society is looked upon as a disgrace and a sign of the weak," she said.

According to some historians, suicide was not always taboo. Suicide was a solution of many societies to escape slavery or conquest, including the Greeks, Romans, Incas, Christians, Jews and Native Americans, Gordon said.

Some historians believe the act started to be looked upon as bad during the growth of Christianity about 1,500 years ago.

"Some believe the taboo started in an attempt to prevent people from killing themselves to defend their new religion," she said.

Because of medical research, health officials are finding more and more evidence that suicide is often caused because of depression and other mental conditions. It is not because a person is weak or a coward, she said.

"Ninety percent of the people who attempt or complete suicide have some previous history of depression or some other mental illness," Gordon said.

With this in mind, it is important for a person who is depressed to get help and not feel they will be ostracized for doing so.

The best thing a person can do is to meet with a therapist for an evaluation, she said.

It is also helpful for friends and family member to recognize symptoms of depression.

"People will give clues directly or indirectly about suicide through their behavior," she said. "We need to know what those symptoms are to do something."

Suicide is an issue that most people are not comfortable talking about, but Gordon stresses suicide should be talked about openly.

"The biggest myth about suicide is if you talk to someone about it, they are more likely to do it," she said. "Our care and concern that we show to a person who needs help is a lifeline that helps keep people grounded."

Talking about the issue with someone who is thinking about it helps, she said.

"Saying something is the anchor we can give people," she said. "We want people to be open with this taboo subject. It is not always easy to get people to be open. But we can all save a life if we are aware and have information."

There are various treatments available for people who are suffering from depression.

They can receive help by meeting with a therapist or taking medications, she said.

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