- 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
- 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...
Steamboat Springs 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 firstname.lastname@example.org