Sandy Beran, of Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, conducts a training class Monday at Yampa River State Park Visitor Center for residents learning to be suicide counselors. The class, which continues today, is designed to combat a growing problem of suicide in  Moffat and Routt counties.

Photo by Jerry Raehal

Sandy Beran, of Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, conducts a training class Monday at Yampa River State Park Visitor Center for residents learning to be suicide counselors. The class, which continues today, is designed to combat a growing problem of suicide in Moffat and Routt counties.

A question with no answer

Mental health agency, advocates working to solve suicide problem

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Sandy Beran, of Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, conducts a training class Monday at Yampa River State Park Visitor Center for residents learning to be suicide counselors. The class, which continues today, is designed to combat a growing problem of suicide in Moffat and Routt counties.

— Colorado's suicide rate ranks as the seventh highest in the country, according to Mental Health America of Colorado. Figures for Moffat and Routt counties are just as unsettling.

Ten suicide deaths have been reported in the two-county area this year - four in Moffat County and six in Routt County. Those numbers come from Colorado West Regional Mental Health, an agency that has worked for the past three years to improve suicide prevention and intervention efforts.

Mental Health division director Tom Gangel said there is no answer to the most important question regarding the local suicide figures - Why?

"It doesn't lend itself to an easy answer as to where this is coming from," said Gangel, who spent Monday helping train 11 residents on the intricacies of counseling people contemplating suicide.

Area suicide victims range in age from 19 to 65 years old, Gangel said. And although most suicide victims were once male, recent years suggest more women are considering suicide, he said.

"There is no consensus; there is no real answer as to who or why," he said. "It's been across the board."

The plight to combat the suicide problem was bolstered Monday - through both the training of new counselors and a financial boost.

Mental Health, and the volunteer agency it funds and helps coordinate, Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, learned that it had received a $60,000 matching funds grant from the Colorado Trust.

The Colorado Trust is an independent grant foundation designed to promote health and well-being across the state.

The grant money is contingent upon Mental Health, which serves Moffat and Routt counties, raising similar funds. Grant funds will be awarded at a $20,000 per year clip for the next three years, Colorado Trust officials said.

The grant comes at a particularly useful time, Mental Health officials said, given that a previous Colorado Trust grant - a $150,000 allocation issued in 2004 - expired in April.

The grant awarded locally was one of 10 the Colorado Trust has pledged to support. Each of the grants is designed to improve suicide prevention, education and awareness.

Overall, the organization has committed $4.9 million to fund suicide prevention efforts from 2002 to 2009.

"Collectively, we've reached out to people in 31 Colorado counties to increase awareness of the problem, reduce stigmas and provide improved access to effective prevention programs," Irene M. Ibarra, Colorado Trust president and chief executive officer, wrote in a press release.

"While we know these programs are making a difference, we also know that there is still a very real need to strengthen community efforts and to support comprehensive care and planning at the state level."

Lisa Foley, Routt County's suicide prevention coordinator, said the money will be used to make presentations to local groups and at area schools. The presentations will be educational and attempt to remove the stigma from depression and suicide.

"We want people to know that it's OK to talk about it," Foley said.

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