Suicide attempts spike in May

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Suicide awareness

- For suicide prevention help after business hours, call 879-1090 and ask for a mental health professional.

- For assistance during the day, call the Steamboat Mental Health Center at 879-2141.

- For the statewide hotline, which is also in Spanish, call (800) 273-TALK (8255).

Suicide risk factors

- Depression, bipolar disorder or other mental illness

- Significant loss (divorce, death, loss of health, separation, break-ups, loss of respect)

- Pressure to succeed

- Family problems

- Poor self esteem

- Family history of suicidal behavior

- Someone close to individual has completed suicide

Warning signs

- Talking about suicide, death or preoccupation with dying

- Trouble eating or sleeping (sleeping all the time, unable to sleep at all, not able to eat or overeating)

- Significant changes in behavior and/or personality

- Withdrawing from family and friends

- Loss of interest in activities, work, school, hobbies or social interactions

- Giving away prized possessions

- Previous suicide attempts

- Increased drug and/or alcohol use

- Statements about hopelessness or worthlessness

- Taking unnecessary risks

- Sudden happiness or calmness following a depressed mood

- Obsession with suicidal means (guns, knives, hanging materials)

- Problems in school or work performance

- Chronic pain or frequent complaints of physical symptoms

- An inability to concentrate, trouble remembering things

What to do

- Take all suicide threats seriously. Listen and express concern in a nonjudgmental way.

- Take action. Get the individual connected with professional help.

- Ask questions openly ("Do you have a plan? Will you talk with someone who can help?").

- Show that you care.

What not to do

- Do not keep it a secret.

- Do not sidestep or treat issue lightly.

- Do not leave the person alone.

- Do not offer simple solutions.

- Do not judge.

- Do not offer or suggest drugs or alcohol.

- Do not try to be a therapist. Get professional help.

Source: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, www.cdphe.state.c...

— Local mental health professionals aren't sure what caused a sharp increase in suicide attempts in May.

There were 19 suicide attempts in Routt County in May, a dramatic increase from the average of four to five attempts a month. Two of those attempts resulted in deaths, bringing the total number of suicides in Routt County his year to four.

There were five suicides in the county last year, according to state data, and local mental health professionals are at a loss about what caused the large increase in May. The rates in June dropped back to normal levels, with no more deaths attributed to suicide.

Tom Gangel, regional director of Colorado West Mental Health Center and the Steamboat Mental Health Center, said there weren't any common factors that tied the 19 May attempts together.

"Rich, poor, employed, unemployed. Who knows? They covered the gamut," he said. The group included men and women and a wide range of ages. The only feature they shared was that the vast majority were locals who had a residence in the county.

"The speculation is that this was in part due to the tremendous lack of sunshine in Routt County this year. Was it because it snowed every day and then snowed in May, too? We don't really know," Gangel said.

Gangel said only a couple of the people who attempted suicide had been seeking mental health assistance prior to the event, which can be heralded as good and bad news.

"Treatment may be working, because that's not who these people were," he said. The bad news is the campaigns the mental health center has been running are not reaching their targeted audience.

Staff at Yampa Valley Medical Center noticed the sharp increase in attempts during the early parts of May and convened a meeting with mental health professionals to address the issue and to try to determine what groups were being affected.

The group found no trend among the patients being treated, said Judy Zuccone, chief clinical and quality services officer.

"The trend we were really looking for is were these people (ones) who had attempted suicide before and now they came back with a second attempt," she said. "But that was not a trend we identified. These were by and large first attempts."

Gangel said mountain communities internationally have higher suicide rates than lower-lying areas. The fall and spring also have the highest number of suicides and attempts, but experts aren't sure why.

"The speculation is people get through the winter and they kept saying to themselves, 'If I just get through the winter my mood will improve.' Then spring comes along and it's bright and sunny and gorgeous out and their mood doesn't improve so they decide this is the time to do something," Gangel said. "But that's pure speculation, there's no good science about why that happens, other than it does."

The mental health center fields about 600 crisis calls a year, and about half of those deal with suicidal thoughts or actions. Of those 300, there are about 250 separate callers a year, Gangel said.

Of the 19 suicide attempts in May, almost all were through ingestion and only about half were admitted to the hospital. Only two of the patients previously had attempted suicide.

Gangel said all of the patients are now connected to a mental health professional, either private practice or through his office.

- To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208

or e-mail zfridell@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

flower 6 years, 5 months ago

One suicide attempt was the result of a crime the person had committed and was facing felony charges.

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Tamera Manzanares 6 years, 5 months ago

Ray Ring at the High Country News wrote a very personal and insightful view of the West's suicidal tendencies. Though more candid than most views, it provides an interesting look into why suicide rates in the Western U.S. are higher:

http://www.hcn.org/servlets/hcn.Article?article_id=17608

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Tom3 6 years, 5 months ago

Suicide is painless...it brings on many changes...

...And I can take or leave it as I please.

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StbtWatchmen 6 years, 5 months ago

I guess it is getting a little depressing around here! People move here thinking it's going to be a spectacular "dog -n- pony show" and they find the reality of having to slave work so others can enjoy. That trips people out, causes divorce, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, aggressive driving, not to mention the ever increase and financial pressures of the cost of living and the economy issues or weather! I wonder what's going to happen when things get really bad? The mental health services in Steamboat and surrounding areas are tightly strapped on budgets and over burdened! I have seen a lot here and have seen increases in everything since the 70s. More people, more issues, more municipal service to be rendered. I just wonder when the bubble will break between accommodating people and weakly funded services become nonfunctional.

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freerider 6 years, 5 months ago

well no more powder days...ski area should have stayed open longer...would have given us something to do..

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StbtWatchmen 6 years, 5 months ago

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem!

Tom3, I think I see where your belief is here however, could you explain?

free rider, I agree but, I'm glad it's summer!

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osiyo 6 years, 5 months ago

People can find a way to get depressed anywhere and not seeing the sun for a while can get you down. But I wonder why the per capita suicide rate in Routt County is 300% greater than the national average. Strange.

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id04sp 6 years, 5 months ago

It's really pretty simple. People get here, spend a season or two, and realize things are tough. It can be emotional or financial, and part of it is probably related to drug abuse either as a result of emotional and financial stress, or as causes of the same kinds of stress.

There are certain people who have physical defects that make them prone to depression and suicide, and the same emotional instabilities tend to interfere with jobs, relationships, school, and every other aspect of life.

According to the people I know personally who have attempted suicide, two of them ingested pills because they just wanted the "pain" to stop. It was emotional pain stemming from broken relationships. The third is a lot harder to nail down, but childhood sexual abuse, low self-esteem (from someone who was successful both in school and in their chosen profession, and even openly admired by others), and self guilt/loathing were all part of it.

I guess the one common factor that bound them all was a quality of "magical thinking" in which they believed that some series of events would come to pass and deliver them from the emotional pain. They all lacked the ability to take personal responsibility for their "pain" and take logical steps to emerge from the situations that caused emotional conflict.

When people back into a corner, have no way out, and see no relief, suicide is the one thing they can control. Sadly, sometimes, even if there's a person there to help them out of the corner, soothe their pain and provide emotional and financial support, that's not enough. Suicide for these people is a sure sign of inability to adapt to negative circumstances.

It's never a one-size fits all issue; a man in his 70s suffering from bone cancer and a girl of 16 who has been teased mercilessly at school would each have their own reasons for wanting to end their lives.

One thing for sure, though. Steamboat Springs is not the good deal a lot of people think it will be, and if they cannot escape back to real life elsewhere, what's the answer?

In Canada, they find people out in the woods who walk out into the forest in the snow with a bottle of vodka, drink it, and freeze to death after falling asleep. Those people really want to die. There's no cry for help to be found in that method, because help won't show up in time. Seems like most of the local cases (where ingestion was the method) fall more into the "cry for help" category.

Life in these little mountain towns is tough, and marriages, businesses and lives fall victim to the financial stresses. If you come here hoping to find happiness, you may be in for a shock. Things really can be worse here than "back home."

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seven 6 years, 5 months ago

non-Bible belt areas abolish God. when the day of turmoil comes and we all have them,no foundation was laid to know there is divine help and intervention. He said my people parish for lack of knowledge.

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nmypinon 6 years, 5 months ago

With in the last 3 years (give or take a couple months) I know of 8 people who took their own lives. All of these people resided in south Routt. (with the exception of 2 that had recently moved) Ages ranged from 18 to over 50. Reasons ranged from not wanting to go to prison, drug abuse, being in extreme pain, depression & wanting sympathy. I have heard several people make the comment ( I should just kill myself or I just want to die) When I tried to seek help for these people the answer I normally got was he/she was just drunk & there is nothing we can do at this time.

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424now 6 years, 5 months ago

I can't understand suicide. I never could. It never made any sense to me. I don't understand people with a chance at life voluntarily throwing in the towel.

We are all of us lucky to get this chance at life

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Jason Miller 6 years, 5 months ago

I know is it is wrong but all i can think about is that metallica song "Fade to Black" when i was reading this. No matter what the reason it is a cowards way out. The people i dont understand are the idiots that go into a school,business etc and kill/wound 20 or so people then killed themselves. Ok life sucks off yourself, but dont destroy hundreds of lives in the balance.

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outsiderlookingin 6 years, 5 months ago

Stbmtwatchmen--- That's my favorite line!!!! I've also read and heard that suicide is hereditary. Not so much genetic as a learned response to the handling of problems.

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