Training tries to erase the taboo of suicide |

Training tries to erase the taboo of suicide

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – The subject of suicide might be grim, but only after it’s too late.

That’s the general message the county’s suicide prevention coalition, Speak Up Reach Out, is spreading this week during the 38th annual National Suicide Prevention Week.

Speak Up Reach Out is hosting seminars this week about suicide prevention, spreading the message to anyone who wants to listen that suicide is preventable. The training seminars are free and last about one hour.

About 10 people showed up Tuesday at the Avon Public Library for different reasons, some personal and some work-related. One woman said a friend had told her that she thought about killing herself once but she didn’t know how to react or respond to such news.

“That’s part of the reason I’m here,” she said.

While one hour might not seem like much, the message spread during the program, known as Question Persuade Refer, was clear.

“Let people know they can talk to you,” said Jamie Pfahl, a public health associate with Eagle County Health and Human Services, who is teaching the seminars. “Give them resources.”

Pfahl talked about warning signs that suicidal people give off. That’s the thing about suicide, she said – there typically are warning signs.

And whether it’s a stranger, a co-worker or someone much closer, often times people just need someone to open up the lines of communication about suicide to know that help is out there.

Elizabeth Myers, executive director of the Samaritan Counseling Center and one of the driving forces behind the coalition, said suicide is often about ending the pain a person is feeling, not about ending life.

By squashing the taboo of suicide and letting people know they’re not crazy for thinking about it is sometimes all it takes, Pfahl said.

When asking someone who you suspect is thinking about suicide if they truly are thinking about it, be direct. She offered this advice:

• Don’t say: “You’re not thinking about suicide, are you?”

• Do say: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”

When asked, many suicidal people will talk about it, Myers said. And when they do reveal their thoughts of despair, the message the coalition wants to get out to anyone listening is that you must get that person the help he or she needs. Often that help is as simple as a phone call away.

“(Suicide) is probably the most preventable health condition,” Pfahl said.

Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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