COLORADO SPRINGS — In this Your Healthy Family we are keeping a focus on mental health and suicide awareness in Southern Colorado. In just the last couple of weeks, there have been two large suicide awareness events, and it's been great to see.
Last week - on Friday, January 13th - in El Paso County, the suicide prevention collaborative hosted a large event with a goal of raising awareness and reducing suicide numbers by 20% in 2024.
Annie Durham, a suicide loss survivor who lost her husband in 2008 shared her story and took part in the event. “I'm very open about my experience, because I've discovered over these last several years that by being open, by what I have experienced, it enables other people to let their guard down, and have that conversation.”
On Monday, January 16th, in Teller County, the mental health alliance hosted a suicide awareness symposium where Annie also shared her story along with mental health experts like Damian McCabe, the director of behavioral health-military affairs with UCHealth.
“The idea that we're asking communities to have this conversation around suicide and suicide prevention is core to community health and community wellness. No matter how healthy or how active a community is, if there's a suicide that happens, it is amazingly destructive to the families to their friends - many members living in the aftemath.”
For UCHealth, being in Teller County is just one small part of their statewide zero suicide initiative [uchealth.org] meant to close the gaps in care when it comes to bringing physical health and mental health closer together.
Said McCabe: “From UCHealth's perspective, we're in this community with our critical access care hospital (Pikes Peak Regional Hospital) and our primary care clinics. People come to that facility for all manner of health care needs, one of those being mental health, and we do more than 300 suicide risk assessments or acute mental health assessments in a month.”
All of this emphasis comes down to making sure we all are aware of simply having important conversations around mental health and reducing the stigma, and not just asking someone if they are OK, but also if they want to go fishing or hang out.
That’s a point Teller County Commissioner Dan Williams made at the symposium on Monday. “It's important that we talk about the stigma that is associated with talking about mental health. I had a resident who called me (Sunday night) asking me about this event and could he come, and he started whispering when he said the word 'suicide.' He’s a friend of mine and I said, ‘Why are we whispering on the phone?’ He said, ‘Because we’re talking about suicide.’ That is why it’s important we talk more about preventing suicide, and it's important to see community leaders at these events, speaking, and if they can, giving hugs and listening and telling their own stories.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis or having suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline [samhsa.gov] at 9-8-8, or the Colorado Crisis Line [coloradocrisisservices.org], at 844-483-TALK, or text “TALK” to 38255.
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