Ivie: Ask a question, save a life
Almost daily I get asked: “Has the suicide rate changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic?” In the early weeks there was no research or data to show that the suicide rate would increase or decrease because of the circumstances related to the pandemic itself.
However, a couple of weeks ago the Well Being Trust released an article stating we could lose 75,000 people to deaths of despair as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As I read this article I could not help but think that there has to be more to this. You see the article released was only a small portion of the actual research and report. I decided to dig a little deeper and what I found set me on a path to this column.
In Eagle County we have had more deaths of despair — someone dying by suicide or substance abuse — than we have of the COVID-19 virus in the last five weeks. That may sound shocking, but I am here to tell you that if we don’t start taking action to decrease the deaths of despair, as we did to flatten the curve, we will continue to lose valued community members. I find it important to note here that suicide is complicated and there is never “one thing” that leads someone to suicide. There are usually multiple circumstances that contribute to their death. So what do we do?
As we move to the second phase on the county’s Transition Trail Map, find ways to connect with one another in person while following the recommended guidelines. Human connection is vital to our existence. Continue to connect virtually with those who choose to stay at home and still need connection.
Make sure you know how to look out for your loved ones. Just like we have learned to identify the symptoms of COVID-19 and refer friends to medical care, we need to learn the signs of suicide. We need to learn how to ask, “are you thinking of suicide?” and refer someone to support. SpeakUp ReachOut offers multiple free, online courses. It takes about one hour to learn the steps to save a life.
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Quite simply, pay attention to your family, friends, and coworkers. This pandemic has brought a host of new challenges to us all. We are trying to navigate a new way and we will need each other’s support to be successful. We need to give ourselves and each other some grace. We all have different circumstances in our lives that drive our decisions as we move forward. Don’t judge and don’t assume. Let people know you care and continue to check in with them.
Having grown up in Eagle County, I have seen firsthand what this community can do when we rally together to support a loved one or a cause. Don’t let this be any different. Help us reduce the deaths of despair. Ask a question and save a life.
Experiencing a crisis? Please call the Colorado Crisis Line at 844-493-8255 or text TALK to 38255.
- Eagle Hope Center, 970-306-4673
Erin Ivie is the executive director of SpeakUp ReachOut. Find out more at https://www.speakupreachout.org/.
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