Tri-County Health: September Is Suicide Prevention Month

The Town of Mountain Village prioritizes Mental Health in recognizing September as Suicide Prevention Month. If you are concerned for yourself, a family member, or friend, you can receive help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Colorado Crisis Services line at 1-844-493-TALK (8255). You can also text TALK to 741741.  And you can also find resources and help at www.MentalHealthColorado.org. Tri-County Health Network plans to organize several events in September to raise awareness around suicide prevention. More information is available by contacting Tri-County Health Network at 970-708-7096, or via email at info@tchnetwork.org 

The Mountain Village Town Council was first out of the gate among local governments to recognize September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Laila Benitez, Mayor, read the proclamation at the August 16, 2018, Town Council meeting. Her fellow council members unanimously approved the measure, presented by the Tri-County Health Network.

Since 2016, San Miguel County has experienced 12 suicides, including four during 2018, sparking a series of steps in the county.

Six that occurred in 2016 drew national news media attention, including a National Geographic article entitled, “Why are Ski Towns Seeing More Suicides.”

That same year, Tri-County Health Network organized a local forum to help community members better understand the issues surrounding suicide, with local experts serving as panelists. Over 50 community members attended the standing room only discussion.

In September 2017, community activist Samantha Damsky, whose father died by suicide, organized Telluride’s first “Walk Out of the Darkness” Suicide Prevention walk, with over 100 community members joining her effort to raise awareness. (This year’s walk is scheduled for September 30.)

According to Paul Reich, Behavioral Health Program Manager at Tri-County Health Network, proclamations and awareness months are important ways to help the community understand mental health issues and break down some of the barriers to care.

“There is still a lot of stigma and discrimination about mental health and suicide in our culture. We are reluctant to talk about it. These public events help people to understand that mental illness is common, and that you can recover from it.”

In 2016, Colorado experienced over 1,100 suicides and suicide remains the 7th leading cause of death for Colorado residents, outpacing homicides and car accidents. In addition, it is the leading cause of death for children, adolescents, and young adults aged 10 to 24 in Colorado.

Mental illness is common—more than one in five of us will experience a mental crisis during our lifetime.

It starts young, with 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness happening by age 14. Early identification of problems and early treatment are key to minimizing the impact of all illnesses, including mental health challenges. Studies indicate that 90% of those who do receive treatment will achieve some measure of recovery. Statewide surveys indicate that a majority of the 1 million Coloradans who experience a mental health or substance use disorder this year will not get the help they need according to Mental Health Colorado.

A lack of enough local mental health providers, the high cost of health insurance, a lack of providers who accept insurance for mental health issues, and the stigma surrounding mental health all contribute to many people not seeking help and care. These issues and barriers are much more prevalent in rural areas, like San Miguel County.

Mayor Benitez, reading from the proclamation, said, “Suicide crosses all economic, social, and geographic boundaries and causes suffering, grieving, and pain that affects families, schools, and communities, (and) that many of those people who died never received effective behavioral health services.” 

ABOUT TRI-COUNTY HEALTH NETWORK:

Formed in 2010, Tri-County Health Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with offices in Telluride and Naturita. TCHNetwork operates 20 Community Outreach Programs that serve a vital role in filling the void of access to health care by assuring care is accessible, affordable, and available to all populations in our 4-county region (San Miguel, Montrose, Ouray, and Delta counties). They are committed to increasing access to care, building health equity, and eliminating health disparities.

For more information, visit www.tchnetwork.org.

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