Need Help? Want to help? Resources available as region sees increase in suicides
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After years of declining numbers, there have already been six suicides in Routt and Moffat counties in 2020.
At the end of August and beginning of September, there were four suicides in three weeks.
“That is not OK,” said Mindy Marriott, executive director of REPS — Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide.
In all of 2019, there were five suicides across the two counties.
Marriott said, this year, she’s also seen a 60% increase in the services offered by REPS.
“We have had a rough time during this public health crisis. Everyone in all communities are feeling the stress,” she said, whether that is about health, finances, the future or interruptions to daily routines.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, during the last week of June, 40% of adults in the United States reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse.
Three of the suicides in 2020 have been in Routt County, and three were in Moffat. Of the most recent four, three of those were in Moffat County.
Marriott’s primary message to the community is to let people know there are resources — great resources — both for people who are struggling and those who want to do something to help on the prevention side.
REPS has the funding to now offer anyone in need five free sessions of counseling or therapy with a local provider, Marriott said. Previously, the nonprofit was limited to offering three sessions and only for people who were experiencing suicidal ideation or who had attempted suicide.
“Now the goal is to shift to provide services to people experiencing any type of crisis,” Marriott said. “We don’t want anyone to get to the point where they are experiencing thoughts of suicide.”
And Marriott said the increased number of sessions is having an impact.
“What we were finding was that people were just starting to connect around three sessions,” Marriott said. “At the five-week mark, we were really starting to see some positive change.”
All someone has to do is call, email or text REPS, and they will be connected with any provider with whom REPS has a contract, which Marriott said includes pretty much every provider in town. There is also a list of providers on the REPS website.
It is all confidential, she said, and once REPS gives the referral, people can choose their own provider and set up their own appointments. Or, REPS will choose a provider that best meets an individual’s needs.
In 2020, Marriott said they’ve had about 30 people utilize the free therapy. Only 22 people used it in 2019.
- On average, one person dies by suicide every seven hours in our state.
- Almost seven times as many people died by suicide in Colorado in 2018 than in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents.
- Suicide is the seventh leading cause of death in Colorado.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 44.
Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
And for those who need continued therapy, there are resources, Marriott stressed, including from REPS.
“We are not going to leave people in the dark,” she said.
For people who want to help, REPS has a Suicide Prevention Advocates program — a team of trained volunteers who support people if they go to the emergency room and then while they are seeing a mental health professional as long as additional support is required. The advocates help connect people to resources and can assist with things like housing, transportation and child care.
At this time, Marriott said REPS has a team of about 15 advocates. Through a partnership with Living Works, REPS also will reimburse people for a one-hour online training on how to keep others safe from suicide.
“It teaches people to recognize when someone is thinking about suicide and then connect them to support,” she said.
The training is available to anyone 13 and older with no prior training or experience needed.
“Having skilled training is one of the most effective approaches,” she said, as is every opportunity to increase education and awareness in the community.
“Help is available,” Marriott stressed.
REPS also can provide training sessions for businesses or other groups, she said.
“We have the funds, and we want them to be utilized,” Marriott added.
And for the free counseling and therapy, Marriott stressed that funding is available for people struggling with anything — whether a divorce, the loss of a job, loss of routine — or anything.
Of the six cases in 2020 in the two counties, Marriott said all were dealing with different struggles. Five were men, and one was a woman. The reasons are complex, she said, but there is help, and solutions can be found.
Especially given the stresses brought on by the pandemic, Marriott noted, anyone can struggle.
“You don’t have to have a mental illness or behavioral health issues,” she said.
And for people who were already vulnerable, these additional stresses can severely exacerbate existing challenges.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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Emma Harmon, of Durango, is pictured with journals she has kept about her mental health challenges. She said Axis Health System would not help her when in crisis. “The way things seem to work there, you’d actually have to have killed yourself before they’d meet with you.” | Jerry McBride/Durango Herald