Suicide rates in Larimer County reach highest in ten years

Austin Fleskes

Over the last ten years suicide rates in Fort Collins and the rest of the country have been on the rise.

Statistics show that over the years suicide rates have more than doubled in Larimer County and have increased to a lesser degree on a national level.

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In response to these rising suicide rates organizations at Colorado State University, Larimer county and across the nation have been fighting to educate people about suicide and how to prevent it.

Statistics

In the last two years five Colorado State University students have died due to suicide, Dell Rae Ciaravola, CSU risk and public safety communications manager wrote in an email to the Collegian.

In Larimer County 83 people died due to suicide in 2016 – the highest it has been in 10 years, according to the Larimer County Coroners Office. In Larimer County alone the average number of suicide deaths has risen from 36 deaths in 2007 to 83 deaths in 2016.

Middle aged white men were the highest percentage of deaths last year with men comprising 69 of the 83 deaths and the white population comprising 79 of the 83.

As of March 6, there have been 15 suicide deaths in Larimer County.

In Colorado suicide is the seventh leading cause of death, ranking tenth in the United States, according to the American Suicide Prevention.

The AFSP reports that there are five times as many people dying from suicide than from homicide. For children ages 10 to 14 suicide is the number one cause of death and is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 44.

The AFSP indicates suicide accounts for over 44,000 deaths every year across the country. For the last ten years the rate of suicide has been slowly rising across age groups and gender identities in the U.S.

For every suicide death in the U.S. there are another 25 attempts, says the AFSP website. The number of self-harm incidents have also been rising — over 500,000 hospitalization cases were reported in 2015.

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Organizations

With suicide rates rising in Fort Collins as well as across the country, different organizations have formed to try to prevent suicide deaths.

In Larimer County the Alliance for Suicide Prevention, a non-profit organization founded in 1989, is attempting to normalize conversation around suicide to try to get more people talking about their mental health status.

“We are what is called a gatekeeper training,” said Rick Hufnagel, executive director of the program. “We utilize the evidence of this model as an effective strategy for suicide prevention.”

Hufnagel said that the ASP works to raise awareness for personal power in many different ways. The organization holds a variety of talks at middle schools and high schools in Larimer County to boost awareness in students of the signs of depression and bipolar disorder to try in an effort to prevent suicide.

The ASP aims to get the community involved with those who are contemplating suicide. The ASP hopes that, through their educational efforts, community members will engage with those who are contemplating suicide in order to get them the help they need.

Hufnagel expressed that it is important that the ASP talks to the community to try to normalize conversations about suicide and make it a public health issue so more people feel comfortable discussing it.

“Having someone say ‘I care’ goes a long way in preventing a suicide,” Hufnagel said.

The Adult Learners and Veterans Services at CSU is also starting a campaign to educate people and get them talking about the topic of suicide.

Their main operation as of now is their upcoming event “Operation Bear Hug.” The event is an obstacle and trivia course that takes 50 groups of five mixed-gendered individuals around the CSU campus in an attempt to educate them on the hardships of depression and the ways to spot and stop someone at risk of suicide.

“It’s veterans leading the conversation about the sensitive topic of suicide,” said Henry Seen, project manager for “Operation Bear Hug.”

The event will be held on April 23 and will begin at 9 a.m.

“Getting that involvement is crucial. The participation piece of it is the more education we have the more we can prevent things from happening,” Seen said. “All it takes to save a life is to connect with someone.

Students that are struggling with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts can turn to the CSU Health Network as well as iTEAM, Intensive Treatment, Education, Assessment and Management, to get the help that they need

iTEAM is the CSU Health Network’s mental health treatment team for students who have been evaluated or treated at a hospital for a mental health emergency, wrote Dr. Lisa Miller, director of specialty counseling services of the CSU Health Network.

She added that iTEAM provides therapy treatment designed to support student success, physical well-being and mental health by way of individual therapy, evaluations for therapy members and group therapy. The organization helps students develop resiliency skills and strategies to deal with the stresses with life. In addition they have informational campaigns such as where to go for help if people are feeling overwhelmed or at risk of hurting themselves.

“Sometimes we can feel isolated when we have a problem in our lives. If students are struggling with anxiety, depression or another mental health concern we want them to know we’re here to help,” Dr. Susan MacQuiddy, director of counseling services wrote in an email to the Collegian.

Other organizations nationwide have opened up to educate individuals on the topic of suicide and suicide prevention.

Zero Suicide, a key concept organization of the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, is one of the many organizations working towards suicide prevention. Their website offers a toolkit to help people get involved in preventing suicide.

“The foundational belief of Zero Suicide is that suicide deaths for individuals under care within health and behavioral health systems are preventable. It presents both a bold goal and an aspirational challenge,” the website says on their about page.

The website also provides a list of events held across the nation, including speakers and workshops.

The American Association of Suicidology, a non-profit organization that believes that suicide is everyone’s business, holds several different programs to educate communities about suicide.

One of their programs is the “U OK?” program which aims to teach students to take the lead to try and prevent suicide.

“We recognize the need for student involvement and ideas in shaping the campaign against suicide,” the “U OK?” website explains.

Hufnagel said students should seek help if they are in need.

“Don’t hide. Don’t be ashamed, there is help out there and be aware that you can get that help,” Hufnagel said. “When people have the comfort to talk about it we are going to go a long way.”

Collegian reporter Austin Fleskes can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @MrPacMan80.