Eagle County’s 2017 suicide count reaches 13, and possibly 14 pending investigation of Nov. 27 shooting | VailDaily.com

Eagle County’s 2017 suicide count reaches 13, and possibly 14 pending investigation of Nov. 27 shooting

The numbers on this map represent county-level suicide totals between 2004 and 2015. Eagle County had 68 suicides during that span.

EAGLE COUNTY — The data is not complicated: 13 Eagle County residents, more than anyone can remember, have killed themselves this year … maybe 14, depending on the outcome of Coroner Kara Bettis' investigation of a Monday morning, Nov. 27, shooting death.

The question, "Why?" is complicated, and there is no satisfactory answer, said Erin Ivie, with Speak Up, Reach Out, a local suicide-prevention organization.

"There is no soundbite that can explain why," Ivie said. "It's never just one thing, one trigger. There are always multiple circumstances. There is no simple answer to the why."

However, prevention can be as uncomplicated as a little human contact.

"The basis of suicide prevention is connection, people being part of a community of people who care," Ivie said.

The impact from a suicide loss is immense, said Sarah Brummett, Office of Suicide Prevention Director with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

It was previously thought that for each suicide death, six individuals are intimately affected. The latest research shows that 120 individuals are impacted significantly by each suicide death.

"How this plays out in our communities, especially our rural communities is huge, whether that is one loss to suicide or 20, each loss is felt acutely," Brummett said.

Possible why

Eagle County's limited mental health resources are probably part of it. Eagle County voters took a step in the prevention direction earlier this month when they approved a tax on recreational marijuana to help support mental health programs.

"While we're making headway on that, it's still an issue," Ivie said.

There's a prevalent link between substance abuse and suicide in Eagle County, along with countless other factors.

"People facing the justice system, either criminal or civil, are at risk. That can be divorce, probation, criminal charges. … There's a traumatic loss that goes with that. Divorce or child custody disputes can be a precursor," Ivie said.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment crunches this data and found that middle-aged, working-class men have the highest suicide risk. Men working in the construction and oil and gas industries top the risk list.

Men are less likely to reach out for the services they need, and when they reach the point of suicide, they more often use a tool that will finish the job. However, more Eagle County women ended their lives this year than any year in memory: five women and nine men, Bettis said.

Suicides down in Summit

While Eagle County's suicide numbers are up, on the other side of Vail Pass, Summit County's four suicides in 2017 would be its lowest number in a decade. That's down from 13 in 2016.

"I would say one suicide is too many, but any reduction in the number feels like a win," assistant Summit County manager and former Summit Community Care Clinic CEO Sarah Vaine told the Summit Daily News.

Man Therapy

Jarrod Hindman is the director of Suicide Prevention with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and is one of the creators of Dr. Mahogany and Man Therapy, reminding men that "You can't just rub some dirt on your emotions."

Dr. Mahogany provides manly advice to men, the group most likely to commit suicide:

Stressed out? Pissed off? I think the proper course of action for you, medically speaking of course, is to take a hefty dose of chill pills.

Learning new things makes you more confident, adaptable and widens your perspective. Plus your wiseacre kid won't seem so smart anymore will he?

Weighty man questions, such as, "What weight bowling ball should I use?" It isn't really about bowling, although it does advise, "A man should never roll a bowling ball lighter than 12 pounds."

If you start therapy or medication, then it's likely to last around 24 weeks, about the same length as the Major League Baseball season

According to the website data, people who visit the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Man Therapy site spend a long time perusing it, something Hindman said is encouraging.

"One of the major challenges facing those who suffer from mental illness or substance abuse is the stigma that is associated with seeking help," Hindman said. "We need to reduce the social pressure that keeps some from seeking life-saving assistance and recognize this as a winnable battle."

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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Suicide prevention help

For more information on suicide prevention, visit the following resources:

• Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado at http://www.suicidepreventioncolorado.org

• Online or telephone hotline at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org or 800-273-TALK (8255)

• Colorado State Employee Assistance Program, or C-SEAP (for state government employees) at http://www.colorado.gov/cseap

• Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Office of Suicide Prevention at http://www.coosp.org

• Carson J Spencer Foundation at http://www.carsonjspencer.org

Mental Health training

The Eagle County Public Health Department and Mind Springs Health will host youth and adult mental health first aid trainings in December.

The first course is for parents and people who work with youth and takes place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards. This course introduces common mental health challenges, reviews typical adolescent development and teaches a five-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations.

The second course is 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12, in the Garden Level Classroom of the Eagle County Building in Eagle. Participants will learn to reach out and provide initial help for adults who may be developing a mental health or substance abuse problem or those who are experiencing a crisis.

Each of the classes is eight hours. Breakfast and lunch is provided. Contact Sarah Kennedy, Total Health Alliance coordinator, at sarah.kennedy@eaglecounty.us for more information.