Denver cop to address suicide at Yampa Valley Wellness Conference |

Denver cop to address suicide at Yampa Valley Wellness Conference

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Denver Police Department Lieutenant John Coppedge has seen just about everything in his 25 years in law enforcement, working criminal investigations, domestic assault cases and robberies and supervising the homicide unit.

These days he trains officers and oversees the resiliency and wellness program for the Denver PD, and on Friday, he will kick off the 2017 Yampa Valley Wellness Conference in Steamboat Springs by talking about suicide — an issue he encountered too often during his law enforcement career.

Coppedge said his first experience with suicide occurred more than a decade ago when a detective he was supervising attempted to kill himself.

The attempt failed, and the officer was able to get help and return to work after counseling. 

"That really opened my eyes," Coppedge said. "I knew a lot about psychology,  mental health and all the things that impact us . . . but I didn't know much about this topic. I did a deep dive into it and read everything I could, then I started speaking about it. Initially, my goal was to change the culture of law enforcement to make sure this was not a taboo topic.”

Coppedge believes this conversation is important for police officers and other first responders — jobs where suicide rates are higher.

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"It should be something that we can talk about, something that you could ask for help and get it,” he said. “My hope was to prevent and to drive down the suicide numbers in my profession.”

Coppedge's opportunities to speak about suicide eventually expanded beyond law enforcement.

"I started talking about it in terms of men's mental health and talking about mental health in general," said Coppedge, who spoke about the topic at the White House in January during the “Dialogue on Men’s Health” event. "It’s lead me in so many different ways."

Coopedge is scheduled to speak at 8:30 a.m. at Steamboat’s Wellness Conference, which will be held from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday at The Steamboat Grand, 2300 Mount Werner Circle. Tickets are $25 and available online at

“My hope with this presentation is to raise awareness to start a dialogue about the topic,” Coppedge said. “Suicide impacts a lot of people, and it’s that little secret that nobody wants to talk about, and if we are not talking about it, we don't impact it.”

The Wellness Conference is sponsored by the Craig Scheckman Family Foundation, Mind Springs Health, Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, The Foundry and UCHealth’s Yampa Valley Medical Center. This year's theme is "Building Community Resilience."

The day includes a dozen speakers covering such topics as coaching children's emotions, domestic violence, veterans and PTSD, emotion-focused family therapy, human trafficking, movement therapy, child maltreatment framework and the Marijuana Education Initiative.

"We try to get things that will be of interest and of some value to folks to bring their awareness levels up and to bring awareness that there are services available in our community and there are certain ideas that may be helpful to you, your family and your job," said Tom Gangel, regional director of Mind Springs Health. "We try to hit all the populations."

This is the seventh year the conference has taken place in Steamboat Springs. 

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.