Sunday, May 2, 2010

Suicide Prevention in Colorado – Together We Are Better

Suicide Prevention in Colorado – Together We Are Better

When suicide makes the news, many of us cringe because the coverage – often sensationalized and overly simplistic – can increase the risk that vulnerable people may act on suicidal thoughts as a result.

Today was different.

Today was a milestone day for the suicide prevention movement in Colorado – our story made the front page of the Denver Post’s Sunday edition, complete with pictures and graphs that demonstrated both the deep need in our state and the exceptional efforts being made to save lives.

Like many of the Rocky Mountain states, Colorado’s suicide rate continues to be high despite the dedicated efforts of many suicide prevention organizations. Kevin Simpson, the Denver Post reporter, spent more than a month collecting information for this article. In this article he highlights the fact that while many are fighting this war against suicide, our resources are continually stripped, making this challenging work even more difficult. By interviewing so many of us who consider ourselves foot soldiers in this battle, he did another important thing – he helped to show how our field is becoming united in our efforts.

As competition for scarce resources increases the risk for internal conflict, suicide prevention groups in Colorado are finding creative ways to collaborate because we know that “together we are better.”

In many ways, Colorado is seen as a leading state in the effort of suicide prevention. Thanks to pioneers like Deanna Rice and others who testified before the state legislature in the 1990s and helped create our Office of Suicide Prevention, we became one of the first states to have an official state strategy for suicide prevention. Other pioneers like LaRita Archibald (founder of HEARTBEAT support groups) and Vivian Epstein (founder of Parents Surviving Suicide) started support groups for families bereaved by suicide long before most people realized the unique challenges of suicide grief. Hotline support has evolved through the steadfast dedication of Eleanor Hamm and others out of our crisis center for decades. And of course, there is the far-reaching work of the Emme family and the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program, whose message lets youth know that “it’s okay to ask for help.”

More recently, we have seen the explosion of the incredibly effective work of Jeff Lamontagne and The Second Wind Fund, who are helping uninsured and underinsured youth at-risk for suicide link to qualified help. Sheila Linwood in Mesa County, Ronna Autrey in Routt County, Dana Lindsay in Larimer County, Nancy Harris in Otero County, Susan Marine in Boulder County and many more – are all finding ways to learn from each other to save lives in Colorado.

"Long's Peak from North, Rocky Mountain National Park," Colorado.
From: U.S. National Archives’ Local Identifier: 79-AA-M16
Photographer: Adams, Ansel, 1902-1984

The reorganization of the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado is another piece of evidence of our pulling together. Knowing that our rural communities need as much (perhaps even more) support than the Denver metro efforts, we now use audio and video conferencing technology to engage communities statewide. When we have better knowledge of the strengths of each organization we are much less likely to duplicate efforts.

The 3rd annual Bridging the Divide Suicide Awareness and Prevention Summit (May 20 & 21, 2010 at Colorado State University) is still another example of successful collaboration. For this conference, clinicians, researchers, advocates and those impacted by suicide share knowledge and resources.

The impact of suicide often remains hidden to the world. The fact that we have such few resources to deal with this profound public health tragedy is a moral outrage. Kevin’s article helped shed some light on the deep need in our state and the potential for a different future.

Help those in a position of creating change pay attention – spread the word.


Please take a moment to thank Kevin for his coverage by writing him a note:

To join the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado – CLICK HERE

To register for the “Bridging the Divide Suicide Prevention Summit” – CLICK HERE