suicide prevention

The Rocky Mountain region continues to face some of the highest suicide rates in the country. A recent panel of experts in Colorado addressed what they said was one of the biggest hurdles to mental health: social stigma. 

Shay Howlin

Hunters often wear orange to stay safe around guns. Now, the public is being encouraged to do the same for Gun Violence Awareness Day this Friday, June 7. 

A gun show may not be the first place you would expect to talk about suicide prevention — especially in Vernal, Utah, where firearms are deeply embedded in the local culture.  

Last year the nation was shocked when a 9-year-old Colorado boy took his own life. A recent report says youth suicide is a public health crisis in Colorado and the numbers in the Mountain West as a whole are staggering, with some of the highest rates in the nation. At the same time, there’s a significant shortage of mental health professionals -- at crisis levels in some communities. Often, it’s mental health workers in schools who work on the front lines of this crisis.

Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death for adolescents in the country. And in the Mountain West, youth suicide rates are double, and in some cases triple, the national average. Now, a new study shows parents are often unaware that their kids are struggling.

The Mountain West has some of the highest teen suicide rates in the country. A new report out of the region looks at what conditions contribute to the high rate of youth suicide. 

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Ranchers and farmers living in the Mountain West are vulnerable to all kinds of things—drought, fluctuating crop prices, trade wars—and in part because of those things - depression and suicide. But there's some help out there, from an unlikely source.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that the U.S. life expectancy continues to decline. This trend is driven in part by an increase is drug overdoses and suicide. The Mountain West is especially vulnerable when it comes to suicide.

Our region has an especially high rate of suicide. Now Colorado is taking a unique approach to deal with it, at least for kids. Attorney General, Cynthia Coffman, just allocated $2.8 million for a state-wide pediatric mental health initiative.

A nine-year-old boy in Colorado took his own life on the first week of school this year. The tragedy highlighted a pervasive problem in the state and in the Mountain West region as a whole -- the high suicide rate -- especially among youth. Goal Academy in Pueblo, Colorado is a charter program with high schools around the state that focuses on both academic and mental wellbeing.   

Monday was World Suicide Prevention Day. Here in the Mountain West, we have some of the highest suicide rates in the country.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

The House just passed a bill to create a 9-1-1 type service nationwide for suicide prevention. This change could be especially important for our region, which has some of the highest suicide rates in the country.

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Wyoming has the third highest gun suicide rate in the nation. The Violence Policy Center recently analyzed data collected from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and found that there is a correlation between gun ownership and suicide by gun. 

Prevention Management Organization

  

Matt Stech of Teton County’s Prevention Management Organization (PMO) picked up a gun lock from a pile of boxes on the floor and pulled off a flier that he’d stapled to the packaging. The flier displayed the National Suicide Hotline, Wyoming’s Crisis Text Line, and contact information for the local PMO. Stech has used most of the basement office for storage since his colleague left earlier this spring. Together, they had been distributing the locks around Jackson, stacking them in clear plastic boxes marked “Free”.

 

 

Craig A. Miller

Governor Matt Mead is hosting the Second Annual Symposium on Suicide Prevention on May 10 in Cheyenne at the Little America Hotel. The event will present a variety of perspectives, from lived experience to prevention to treatment, and it’ll focus on solutions to an issue that touches the lives of far too many in Wyoming.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the national suicide rate has risen 24 percent since 1999, but Wyoming’s suicide rate has remained essentially unchanged in the same period.

State suicide prevention coordinator Terresa Humphries-Wadsworth chalked up the flat suicide rate here to increased efforts in education. She said they have been working hard over the past few years to train people to recognize the warning signs that someone may be considering suicide, and then how they can bring up the subject and connect a person with resources – and it seems to be working.

Wyoming has the fourth highest suicide rate in the nation, but last week, the state joined the National Crisis Text Line to make it easier for people at risk of suicide to reach out for help. 

People can text "WYO" to 741-741 and hear back from a crisis counselor within five minutes. The counselors can help them talk through their problems, and then help them find services in their communities. 

Victor Ashear

As we continue our series looking at serious mental health issues we turn our attention to a workbook intended to help those with these serious issues change their outlook.

Doctor Victor Ashear was a long time clinical psychologist at the Sheridan VA and a current private practitioner in Sheridan who deals with those who have serious mental illness. He is joined by his editor and former suicide prevention specialist Vanessa Hastings. Dr. Ashear’s book is called Self-Acceptance: The Key to Recovery from Mental Illness.  

Miles Bryan

A few weeks after Cody officer Seth Horn went through Crisis Intervention Training, or “CIT,”  he went out on a call to see a man who was potentially suicidal.

“I started speaking with this person, and some things were lining up with the report that we got,” Horn said in a department conference room. “And then, using the training, I started to ask some very specific questions.”

Miles Bryan

Gillette mother Trish Simonson never wanted a tattoo. That changed when her son Kaden died by suicide last May. Now her left wrist is adorned with a Bible verse and a semicolon symbol, along with some text.

“It says Kaden: 5-8-15,” she said with her arm turned out. “And, ‘ask my story.’”

Trish’s twenty-five-year-old daughter Ashley has a fresh tattoo as well. She and her brother both loved Harry Potter, so a “Patronus”—a mythical creature from the books—is now inked on her right arm.

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This month is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and organizations across Wyoming are taking the opportunity to shed light on the issue. One of those is the Natrona County Suicide Prevention Task Force, which is hosting a statewide conference on suicide prevention this week.

Aaron Schrank

One week after the most recent death at UW, Animal Science Professor Dan Rule is in the Student Union with 20 others discussing symptoms of depression and warning signs for suicidal thinking. Rule says he’s here because he cares about his students.

“I don’t care if they’re an 18 or 19-year-old, or if they’re a 40-year-old non-traditional student or even if they’re a veteran,” says Rule. “They’re my kids when they’re in my room.”

UW

The University of Wyoming is urging its community to pull together after a pair of apparent student suicides on campus over the past week.

Last Tuesday, the University says a freshman student from Ohio was found dead in a vehicle on campus.

This week, a 19-year-old freshman male student from Jackson, Wyoming was found dead inside a residence hall.

“The fact that two happened so closely together is absolutely a huge concern,” says University spokesman Chad Baldwin.

He says UW is offering counseling to students who have difficulty coping with the incidents.

September is suicide prevention awareness month. Wyoming consistently has one of the highest rates of suicide in the nation, and the state is working hard to change that.

One of the reasons that suicide prevention efforts are so important is because of what suicide does to the family and friends of the victim. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports that the grief survivors go through can be much more acute than other types of grief.