Yampa Valley community wellness forum to focus on mental illness, violence and safety | SteamboatToday.com

Yampa Valley community wellness forum to focus on mental illness, violence and safety

Nicole Inglis

— Last year, Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide trained about 500 people how to recognize the signs of depression and suicide and to intervene to save the life of someone suffering from mental illness.

On Tuesday, almost 600 teachers and students at Steamboat Springs High School received the training.

Ronna Autrey, executive director of REPS, said training local youths in how to respond to a mentally ill friend or sibling is just one more step toward a healthier Yampa Valley community.

Autrey and a panel of local mental health leaders and nonprofit officials will be on hand Tuesday evening at a forum on mental illness, violence and community safety.

The discussion takes place from 7 to 9 p.m. at Colorado Mountain College's auditorium in Steamboat and will include input from Autrey, Colorado West Mental Health Regional Director Tom Gangel, Advocates Building Peaceful Communities Executive Director Diane Moore and others.

With recent mass shootings and mental illness in the national spotlight, Gangel said he hopes the program can help dispel myths and stigma about mental illness and violence.

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According to a 2006 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry, about one in 20 violent crimes are committed by those with severe mental illness.

"We always want people to understand a couple of different things," Gangel said. "One is that mentally ill people really aren't dangerous, and we want to do our best to reduce the stigma of seeking treatment."

It's the stigma that could be the most detrimental by preventing those with mental health issues from seeking treatment out of embarrassment or fear.

Mental illness and suicide remain a concern for mental health care workers in the Yampa Valley.

In 2012, there were five suicides in Routt County. Although that number has been as high as 11, Autrey said the number usually hovers at about five to six per year.

This week, the first suicide of 2013 occurred in Steamboat, and police were called to several reports of suicide attempts, including a man who tried to kill himself in the bathroom of a local business.

Autrey said that there's no sure pattern to when, where and how suicides occur and that early intervention and treatment is the only answer.

"Wouldn't it be great if we had a better handle on how to be better neighbors and better co-workers, or if you have someone with mental illness in your family?" she asked.

Gangel said the event also will include discussion about local treatment options and resources.

"I really want people to understand treatment works and that mentally ill people can be treated; we can help them," Gangel said.

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com

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