Suicide group would help others’ grief, woman says
EAGLE COUNTY – Jill Baron used to cry when she spoke about her brother-in-law’s suicide. More than a year later, she calmly explains the importance of a suicide support group in Eagle County. “This will give survivors that forum to help with the healing, help with the grief process,” said Baron, a jail sergeant with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.In January, Baron worked to start an Eagle County chapter of HEARTBEAT, a support group for survivors of suicide founded in Colorado Springs in 1980. HEARTBEAT has 24 chapters in Colorado and 15 in other states. The county needs a chapter, Baron said. As of May 9, 20 people had killed themselves in Eagle County since 2002, said Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis. Eagle County’s suicide rate was the same as Denver’s between 2000 and 2005 – 14.6 of every 100,000 people committed suicide, according to Colorado Department of Health and Environment records. Still, differences between Eagle County’s suicide rate and all other Colorado counties were not statistically significant, said Mary Chase, director for Vital Statistics. ‘The anguish is overwhelming’Eagle County needs a support group because after a suicide occurs, widespread grief consumes those who knew the victim, she said. Family members, friends, employers and co-workers all need support, Baron said. Baron recalled the day 38-year-old John committed suicide in Boulder. (Baron would not give John’s last name to protect his privacy, she said.) Victims’ advocates from the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office helped by listening and answering questions respectfully and with dignity, she said. “I think the anguish is overwhelming,” Baron said. “I think you start to wonder why and why didn’t you see the signs.”Advocates gave her a brochure about HEARTBEAT, and the organization stood out to her, she said. Months went by, and when preparing for the anniversary of John’s death, she decided to start a chapter. “When you keep thinking about something, you pray about it and you think, ‘Is God telling me I really should do this?'” she said.The region has some suicide-prevention programs, but the chapter will be the first one to support people grieving after suicides, she said. The local chapter is being sponsored by the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, the Eagle River Youth Coalition and Colorado West Mental Health. Survivors would benefit from the support group because they would talk about their experiences with suicide, often considered taboo, she said.”I think it helps for the survivor to get it all out – to be able to have a forum where they’re comfortable, they’re not judged,” Baron said. Why attend? Baron never talked to strangers whose loved ones had committed suicide until she met with directors of HEARTBEAT on May 5 to plan for the monthly meetings she will lead beginning in July. The women began sharing stories about losing their loved ones, she said. The meeting helped Baron because the women shared a common bond while discussing their problems, she said. “A number of them had lost their children,” Baron said. “One of the ladies said, ‘When you’re in a conversation with somebody and they say, “How many children do you have?” Do you still say, “I have five children,” although you’ve lost one of them to suicide?'” she said. Baron knows she will have a hard time reliving her brother-in-law’s death during meetings – she has never been able to understand why her brother-in-law took his own life, she said. “You try to think back the pieces of the puzzle, and you never really come up with any concrete answers to it all,” she said. Still, those whose loved ones have committed suicide need to know that they can heal, and meeting others farther along in the process would help, she said.”I don’t ever think it leaves you anyway,” Baron said. “Certainly if you can provide support – have something positive come out of something negative – I think that’s the foundation of it.”Baron refused to use adjectives like “excited” to describe her feeling about leading the support group, she said. “I know it’s a good thing, and I know there’s a need for it,” she said. =========================Suicide in Eagle CountyNumber of suicides from Jan. 1, 2002, to May 9, 2007:2002 – 7.2003 – 3.2004 – 3.2005 – 1.2006 – 5.2007 – 1.Source: Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis==========================Suicide support groupHEARTBEAT meetings will begin in July and will be held the first Tuesday of each month from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Miller Ranch Community Center in Edwards. For more information, call Jill Baron at 328-8500.==========================Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or firstname.lastname@example.org.