Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Preventing Suicide in Eagle County

Living in a place as magnificent as the Vail Valley brings many wonderful things to our lives, however, it does not protect us from the tragedy of suicide. On December 25th 2014, Scotty Lamothe, the brother of local realtor and SpeakUp ReachOut Board Member Corey Lamothe, committed suicide after a 14-year struggle with depression, addiction and suicidal thoughts. On September 12th we will remember Scotty and many others who have been lost to suicide at the SpeakUp ReachOut Community Walk and Heartbeat Memorial Balloon Launch in Eagle and the First Annual Scotty Lamothe Memorial Golf Tournament in Vail. 

According to the most recent statistics available, Colorado ranks seventh in the nation for completed suicides and Eagle County has one of the highest rates of suicide in the state of Colorado. While we don’t have the data to explain exactly why these elevated rates of self-harm occur here, we do know that the group at highest risk for suicide is white men between the ages of 25 and 54, a demographic well represented here in our mountain community. Other risk factors include unemployment, which can be a significant problem in our area where good jobs can be hard to find and are often seasonal, relationship loss, financial problems, depression or other mental illnesses, substance abuse, owning a gun, aggressive or impulsive tendencies, lack of access to mental health resources and perceived stigma about talking about suicide or reaching out for help.  While many people, establish permanent homes in the Vail Valley and become involved and connected members of our community, others may be at risk due to the isolation and lack of social support that can come from second home ownership, transience, and being distant from family and lifelong friends.

SpeakUp ReachOut was founded in 2009 to provide suicide prevention education and resources for Eagle County. We meet at the Avon Municipal building on the third Thursday of every month at 4pm. If you’re interested in getting involved, you are welcome to join us. Find out more by checking out our website, www.speakupreachout.org.

It is unsettling to realize that most suicidal individuals do not actually want to die. They just want to end their pain and they feel they have run out of options. The good news is that suicidal crises tend to be short-lived and that suicidal intent or risk can be detected early and lives can be saved. When suicidal people survive an attempt, they are usually relieved and grateful for their rescue. Services available in our community for the assessment and treatment of suicidal behaviors and their underlying causes include private practice psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and psychotherapists, as well as school counselors and clinics. Mental heath services are covered by health insurance and some practitioners and clinics provide sliding scale fees based on ability to pay. If you would like help but aren’t sure where to begin, talking to your physician is a good first stop. If you or someone you care about is in immediate danger, call 911, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-TALK or Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-TALK.

Sadly, talking about suicide still carries a stigma. People used to avoid talking about other serious health problems, like cancer, and this veil of secrecy only compounded the suffering of affected individuals and their families. Open dialog leads to solutions, support and constructive conversations. It’s time for open dialog about this serious, preventable, public health crisis. Talking about suicide will not encourage people to consider suicide. Instead, it can save their lives.

This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. This year’s theme is “Preventing Suicide: Reaching Out and Saving Lives.” Please join your friends, colleagues, neighbors and SpeakUp ReachOut in drawing attention to suicide prevention and reducing the number of lives shaken by needless, tragic and preventable deaths. You can make a difference. Come walk with us on September 12 as we remember, reflect and revitalize hope. You can register online or just come by the Dusty Boot at 8:30 am to register onsite.

If you or someone you care about is in immediate danger, call 911, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-TALK


Jill Squyres, PhD is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Eagle. She is also on the Board of SpeakUp ReachOut. She can be reached at 970-306-6986 or drjsquyres@mac.com

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