Talk to your teenager — that’s the message from Douglas County Schools on Wednesday after four teenagers have committed suicide in the last 11 days. That’s the same number of students in all of last year, and now the discussion has hit the state Capitol.
Lawmakers have been talking about ways to prevent suicides. It’s not just a Douglas County problem, it’s a statewide problem. Suicide is the number one cause of death among 10 to 34 year olds in Colorado, yet the state spends relatively little on prevention. But new legislation aims to address that, and one mother is fighting to see it passed.
Twice a week Susan Marine goes to the state Capitol to talk about the issue that’s shrouded in stigma and secrecy. It’s an issue that’s incredibly personal and painful.
“Both of my children died of suicide,” Marine said.
After losing her son and daughter in a span of four years, Marine became a leading voice for suicide prevention in a state that has consistently ranked in the Top 10 in the country for the number of suicides.
In 1012, more than 1,000 Coloradans took their own lives – a record number — and yet the state spends just $384,000 on suicide prevention.
“The issue of suicide really fell off the radar of the state as a whole and we really need to get it back on the radar,” Marine said.
Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, is leading the charge.
“The biggest thing for me is we’re so silent about it. We should be screaming from rooftops. We should be getting every hand, every resource in place, and yet nobody’s talking about it,” Newell said.
Newell is asking lawmakers to approve an additional $85,000 a year to help expand the state’s Office of Suicide Prevention. It’s an office that currently consists of one man — Jarrod Hindman.
Hindman does the training, education and public outreach. He says the state has made progress, but not enough. Last year more than 12,000 Coloradans called a suicide hotline.
“It’s rural issue, it’s an urban issue, it’s a school issue, it’s a workplace issue, it’s family issue; and it’s a public health issue,” Hindman said. “This isn’t just an individual, private issue. This is an issue of public health in Colorado.
Marine says its time the state did more about it.
“Because I’d like to spare other families that kind of pain and loss,” she said.
Newell is also asking for a statewide suicide prevention commission. It would include children, rural Coloradans, schools and business leaders to study why suicide is so prevalent in the state, and what prevention strategies work. The commission would be funded by public and private money.
The bill goes before a committee on Thursday. It has bipartisan support and a good chance of passing.