Suicide rate in Colorado remains shockingly high
From: Daily Camera
When someone loses a loved one to, say, cancer or a vehicle accident they might wear a colored ribbon with thousands of other people at a fund-raiser; they might build a roadside memorial. Friends and colleagues might feel unburdened when offering condolences or empathizing. Suicide, an act of violence often preceded by months or years of emotional struggle, is frankly hard for most people to talk about. The unanswered questions it usually leaves behind can stymie conversations between even those quite intimate with it.
That's where the silence ends: Suicide is a well-known, well-documented and widely reported problem in our state. It has been for a long time. Colorado consistently has had one of the highest suicide rates in the nation; it is the leading cause of death for Coloradans aged 10 to 34.
For at least a few decades, social scientists and other researchers explored what seems to be a paradox: In a place where the quality of life ranks high, the economy tends to fare well in comparison with other states, and as a whole, the population is relatively healthy, too many people — particularly young men — choose to take their own lives.
Theories about how substances like drugs and alcohol impact suicide rates are discussed; Coloradans in general aren't teetotalers. We also have a large military and veteran population, which suffers from a growing and higher-than-average suicide rate. And places with high gun ownership have higher suicide rates.
There's a persistent theory that the influx of other people into the state makes the suicide rate artificially high: If you moved here to escape some mental anguish or financial strife from another state, it's possible you brought your troubles with you, is how the theory goes.
Clinging to generalizations and theories, even long-standing ones, hasn't put a dent in the rate though.
Today, Colorado has the eighth highest suicide rate in the country. In 2012 alone, 87,500 Coloradans "seriously considered" committing suicide. In 2012, more than twice the number of people died from suicide than in motor vehicle accidents.
This week a state Senate committee advanced legislation to form a commission of public health officials and private experts to tackle this lingering silent-but-not-secret deadly problem. It would analyze how suicide prevention funds are used, and explore evidence-based suicide programs that have worked elsewhere.
Other suicide prevention efforts have either stalled out or have run out of funding over time. We have hope that this group can get the attention of Colorado communities. Bringing suicide out of the shadows and discussing it publicly are a good start.