REPS offers help

Suicide, depression forum is Tuesday

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If you go

What: Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide forum about depression and suicide

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Steamboat Springs Community Center

Other: A panel of suicide experts and suicide providers will answer questions and give advice about how to deal with suicide and depression.

Info: For more information, call Ronna Autrey at 970-875-2941.

— The death of a loved one, friend or coworker from suicide can leave the survivors numb and overcome with shock and disbelief.

This Ronna Autrey knows well. There is no easy answer to getting through it, but talking with fellow survivors and understanding the grief process provides a major help, Autrey said. She lost an adult son to suicide seven years ago.

The Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide group will host a community forum from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Steamboat Springs Community Center. The forum will feature experts and survivors.

The recent death of Slopeside Grill owner Chris Corna, ruled a suicide by a medical examiner in New York, has elicited a strong reaction from the community. That reaction prompted REPS workers to hold the meeting, said Autrey, the nonprofit group's suicide prevention coordinator.

"Many times, it's just out of the blue, and it takes everybody by surprise, and then denial sets in," Autrey said, stating clearly that she was speaking generally about suicide and not specifically about Corna's death. "We want to talk about the resources that are here. If somebody is depressed, or if Chris Corna's death or any other suicide has affected them and they want extra help, it's available."

Last year in Routt County there were nine suicides and 118 attempts. Suicide is the seventh-leading cause of death in Colorado, accounting for more deaths than homicide.

"We're way above the state averages and the national averages for the population we have. The whole Western Slope is that way, which doesn't equate with living in paradise, does it?" Autrey said.

The panel for Tuesday's forum will include Dr. Kimberly Nordstrom, a psychiatrist from Grand Junction, and local social workers Katy Thiel and Carol Gordon. There also will be three suicide survivors: Autrey, Dennis Freeman and Laurie Marano.

"I hope that (attendees) will learn more about the grief process when it comes to a suicide because there's a lot of processing to go through when there's a suicide. You go through so many different stages of grief, and we're going to present those stages of grief and talk about them," Autrey said.

Freeman said the process of talking with other survivors is something he found important.

"Is there a clear protocol that makes it better? No. Getting answers from people who have had that experience helped me probably more than anything else - having someone say it's going to get better," he said.

Learning about the grief process and how other people have dealt with it is a successful strategy for survivors, Autrey said, because it allows them to move through the stages of grief themselves and learn to live with the loss.

"We have two choices when we have a suicide. We can either let it destroy us, or learn to live with it and go on with a meaningful life," she said.

Freeman said that sometimes the answer of why a person committed suicide isn't the most important part of recovery.

"Sometimes having the clarity that there are no answers is more helpful than searching for them," he said.

- To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208 or e-mail zfridell@steamboatpilot.com

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