Vail Valley Voices: Suicide devastates entire families |

Vail Valley Voices: Suicide devastates entire families

Joe Hoy
Vail, CO, Colorado

Every 16 minutes someone in the U.S. dies by suicide.

Every 17 minutes someone is left to make sense of it.

Each day in the U.S. approximately 90 people take their own lives, leaving behind loved ones to struggle with the loss, grief and all of those questions that begin with “Why?”

First responders know all too well the devastating impact of suicide. They see the families and loved ones immediately after the death.

“We know of at least three suicide attempts in Eagle County in the last two weeks,” says Lt. Greg Daly, of the Avon Police Department.

While extremely grateful that those attempts were not completed, Daly has already seen too many families and friends in the aftermath of suicide.

“When we respond to the scene of a completed suicide, the devastation the survivors go through is heartbreaking,” he says.

Too often, survivors of suicide loss believe the death of their loved one is somehow shameful or that they or their family are to blame. But research shows that more than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have an underlying, although not always diagnosed, psychiatric illness at the time of their death, most often depression.

“One of the hardest things for me personally,” says Deena Ezzell, a victim advocate at the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, “is when I’m at the scene after a death and someone says something like, ‘Well, they did talk about killing themselves, but I never thought they were serious,’ because I’m sure they would have gotten their loved one help if they had only recognized the warning signs.”

This is where the Suicide Prevention Coalition of the Eagle Valley can help. The coalition is a group of individuals throughout Eagle County who are dedicated to providing suicide-prevention education and resources for those in need.

Their website,, provides information about warning signs and where to get help.

Speak Up Reach Out also can provide payment for counseling services for individuals who have thoughts of suicide or for survivors who have lost a loved one due to suicide. The website urges bystanders to intervene and offers hope for someone thinking about suicide: “Suicidal thoughts are temporary. Suicide is permanent. Don’t give in to suicidal thoughts – you can overcome them. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911. If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8522).”

The holiday season can be particularly difficult for survivors. In 1999, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, a survivor of his own father’s suicide, brought the challenge of coping with suicide loss into the national spotlight by introducing Senate Resolution 99, which declared the Saturday before Thanksgiving “National Survivors of Suicide Day.”

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s International Survivors of Suicide Day will be held Saturday in more than 250 cities around the world at 11 a.m. local time.

Survivors of suicide loss gather at hundreds of simultaneous healing conferences around the world every year on International Survivors of Suicide Day to connect with others who have survived the tragedy of suicide loss and express and understand the powerful emotions they experience.

Featured survivors address the questions that so many newly bereaved survivors face: Why did this happen? How do I cope? Where can I find


Experts on suicide share information on what we currently know about suicide and grief. Survivors also can watch online and join in a live chat immediately following the program. The online program features Spanish and French subtitles, plus closed-captioning in English. To sign up to watch online, go to

“When pain exceeds pain-coping resources, suicidal feelings are the result.” “Suicide is not a defect of character. It is simply an imbalance of pain versus coping resources” –

For local coping resources, you can visit or call the toll-free help line 800-273-TALK.

Or contact Jill Baron, of the HEARTBEAT – Suicide Loss Support Group, at 970-309-7699 or The group meets at the Gypsum Public Library on the second Monday of the month at 5:30 p.m. There is no charge, but donations are appreciated.

Joe Hoy is the Eagle County sheriff.

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