Group raises suicide-symptom awareness

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Support groups organized by Ronna Autrey, suicide prevention coordinator for Steamboat Mental Health Center and Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide:

- A bipolar/depression support group meets at 7 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of every month in Conference Room 2 at Yampa Valley Medical Center

- A suicide survivor group, for people who have had someone close to them commit suicide, is at 6:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association Comfort Room in front of the VNA office in YVMC

- Suicide attempt survivors, a new group with meeting times and dates to be determined. For more information, call Autrey at 875-2941 or e-mail rautrey@cwrmhc.or...

— When a person commits suicide, the effects are felt throughout the community. Members of the Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide group are encouraging the awareness of depression to begin long before that tragic event.

To drive that message home, the suicide prevention group turned to an expert - a college student named Bryce Mackie.

When Mackie was a 17-year-old high school student, he made a documentary about his battles with depression and suicide attempt. At the time, Mackie did not know he suffered from depression.

Mackie since has toured the country to give teenagers advice about what to look for in their friends and classmates to prevent another depressed and potentially suicidal teen from going unnoticed.

Steamboat Mental Health suicide prevention coordinator Ronna Autrey said Mackie will speak at Steamboat Springs High School, Soroco High School, Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus and at a community forum during his visit Sept. 17 and 18.

Teens in particular should "know they need to talk to somebody if they think their friend is in danger," Autrey said. "Kids tend to not want to rat on their friends. This program is geared at telling them that's not a good thing."

Mackie's speech and presentation of his documentary, "Forever High," also will kick off a Survivor of Suicide educational campaign in the schools. Mackie's presentation to the public is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 17, with the location to be announced soon.

Next week, leading up to Mackie's visit, REPS will host a Suicide Prevention Awareness Week as the group expands its offerings and membership.

A recent barbecue fundraiser for REPS raised about $8,000, Autrey said, and 18 volunteers recently took a two-day course on suicide prevention. REPS board member Sharon Beaupre said suicide and depression awareness is an important part of the campaign because mental health issues are not yet handled the same as physical ailments.

"It's imperative we get parity for mental health issues in the medical field, as well as public tolerance and acceptance," she said. "Education and awareness will expand that."

Last year, there were nine suicides and 118 attempts in Routt County. There have been two suicides this year. Popular Steamboat businessman Chris Corna committed suicide earlier this summer in New York, an act that surprised and dismayed many who knew him.

"The more expanded these are and the more people we draw into these, the more we can help," Beaupre said.

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