Routt County had six suicides in 2014 |

Routt County had six suicides in 2014

— With two suicides already in Routt County in 2015, the leader of a local suicide prevention group is concerned.

Last year, six deaths were ruled as suicides in Routt County, and Meghan Francone, executive director of Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, said that is about average. Moffat County had three suicides last year, and none so far in 2015.

“Northwest Colorado is hit very hard by suicide,” Francone said.

According to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Office of Suicide Prevention, Routt County’s suicide rate is above average when compared to the other 63 counties in Colorado.

Given the average suicide rate for a three-year period between 2011 and 2013, Routt County had the 23rd highest suicide rate in Colorado. Moffat County had the 11th highest suicide rate during that same time period.

“I wish we could figure out why we’re higher,” said Gina Toothaker, program director for Mind Springs Health, a nonprofit organization that provides mental health services to communities on Colorado’s Western Slope. “There is no one thing that seems to connect them all. We have a big substance abuse problem in this community, and that can contribute.”

Colorado has one of the highest suicide rates in the country, and it is hard to say exactly why.

“Death by suicide … is always in the top 10 of causes of death in Colorado, but we’re in the bottom quarter for funding,” Francone said.

Francone and Toothaker said there are other theories for the high suicide rate.

Francone said research continues to be done to study the relationship between elevation and depression. Resort towns commonly have a high population of seasonal workers, and sometimes it is hard for them to anticipate the challenges.

“They just get overwhelmed, and maybe they don’t have the resources that they have back home,” Toothaker said.

Harsh winters and rural communities with less mental health resources also could contribute to the suicide rate.

“I wish that we could figure out why we’re higher,” Toothaker said.

The good news is that more people seem to be seeking out help in Routt County.

“We’re seeing more and more people coming in and asking for help,” Toothaker said.

She said it seems like progress is being made. In 2008, there were nine suicides in Routt County. In 2010, there were 11, compared to six in 2014.

That’s still six too many,” Toothaker said.

Help is available for those dealing with mental health issues.

Francone said that each year, eight million people seriously consider suicide in the United States.

“It’s those people that we’re rubbing shoulders with in the grocery store,” Francone said. “It’s our family. It’s our kids.”

Help for those considering suicide is just a phone call away, or people can go to an emergency room.

The Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide hotline is 970-846-8182, and the national hotline is 800-273-TALK.

Francone and Toothaker said people should not be ashamed to ask for help.

“It seems like people are getting over the stigma and getting help,” Toothaker said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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