Vail Valley group says suicide prevention can be as simple as speaking up, reaching out
SpeakUp ReachOut reminds us to 'Be Your Own Kind of Brave' during Suicide Prevention Month
Anyone can save a life, especially you.
Erin Ivie is the executive director of SpeakUp ReachOut, a regional suicide prevention organization, and she’s also the co-chair of the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado.
“Suicide prevention is everyone’s business. You may think you’re just one person, that you cannot make a difference. You can. I’m here to tell you, you can save a life,” Ivie said on the organization’s website.
Suicide Prevention Month
September is National Suicide Prevention Month.
“Anyone from any walk of life can be the difference to make sure another does not suffer in silence,” Ivie said.
It’s personal for Ivie. Her best friend, Luke, committed suicide in 2007. Since then, 10 more of her acquaintances died by suicide. Before that, she didn’t know much about suicide. Now she does.
“It became my mission to learn what I could and share that knowledge. What I learned changed my life,” Ivie said. “It made me realize that we need to talk about suicide to prevent suicide.”
Prevention does not always need to be complicated, Ivie said, it just takes effort. That includes:
- If you’re concerned about someone, ask them straight out.
- Do not leave them alone.
- Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
- Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.
“It may not always be easy, but life is priceless and worth the effort,” Ivie said.
Suicides down this year, so far
SpeakUp ReachOut is one of the regional groups providing suicide prevention education and training.
Its goals are lofty but uncomplicated. It wants to reduce the number of suicides in Eagle County and educate the community on suicide prevention.
It seems to be working.
So far this year, there have been nine suicides in Eagle County: six men and three women, according to Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis. Last year, the county set a record with 17 suicides.
Suicide rates roughly tripled from six in 2016 — a longtime county average — to 16 in 2017 and then 17 last year.
Of those six men this year, two were inmates at the Eagle County jail. One of those prisoners was a military veteran who received an outpouring of support from the local VFW and others and yet killed himself anyway.
In his Vail Daily column, Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek said jail suicides are heartbreaking but not necessarily surprising.
The U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics found that jail suicides run 46 per 100,000 inmates. Prison suicides run 15 per 100,000, lower because people in prison have usually been incarcerated before and have experienced the “shock of confinement” that comes with being separated from their job, housing and sense of normalcy, the Justice Department analysis said.
A Ruderman Foundation study on suicide among first responders found that during their careers, police officers witness an average of 188 “critical incidents” that can lead to several forms of mental and emotional problems. Post-traumatic stress disorder and depression can be five times higher among firefighters and police officers, the Ruderman study found. Suicide rates include:
- Firefighters: 18 per 100,000.
- Police officers: 17 per 100,000.
- General population: 13 per 100,000
While searchers found him in a remote part of Garfield County, the suicide of Tayler Esslinger, 26, in June from a self-inflicted gunshot wound was a blow felt throughout Eagle County. Esslinger appeared to have everything going for him: two jobs he loved — one with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and one as a Gypsum firefighter — and a lifetime of friends and family from growing up in the valley.
Dozens helped with a weeklong search after he disappeared. Hundreds of Esslinger’s friends and family, as well as colleagues from Colorado emergency agencies, gathered July 8 to mourn him. More than 50 emergency vehicles from across Colorado, from the Front Range to the Grand Valley and all over the region, gathered in Gypsum and paraded to Eagle, rolling under a massive American flag suspended between ladder trucks from the Gypsum and Eagle fire departments. Hundreds of uniformed first responders rolled in with them, all with American flags on their sleeves and black shrouds across their badges.
Pastor Michael Chon said at Esslinger’s memorial service that the hundreds who showed up were a testament that we are not alone, no matter how much we think we might be.
Eagle police Officer Bryce Hinton confessed to the crowd that he had also been in that “dark, cold, lonely place.” He got help and advised others to do the same. “You are not alone. You are loved,” Hinton said.
Warning signs of suicide
- Talking about wanting to die
- Looking for a way to kill oneself
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
Source: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Speak Up Reach Out: Suicide Prevention Coalition of Eagle County;
Hope Center: 24-hour crisis line and in-person community support; Call 970-306-4673 (HOPE).
Colorado Crisis Line: 1-844-493-8255; call, chat online, or text TALK to 38255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 800-273-8255 (TALK) or go online for chat support
Eagle County Schools added six mental health counselors and the district will add two more school resource officers, according to the school district’s 2019-2020 budget book. The district also aised starting pay and gave staffers a 2.3% cost-of-living raise.