NewsCovering Colorado


El Paso County suicide prevention summit, resources are available

New national suicide prevention hotline
Posted at 6:10 PM, Jan 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-13 20:28:51-05

EL PASO COUNTY, CO — El Paso County leads the State of Colorado in the number of people who die by suicide.

On, Friday, January 13th a suicide prevention summit at UCCS highlighted work in the community to prevent suicide from happening and keeping the conversation going about suicide in Colorado and amongst youth.

The Suicide Prevention Collaborative of El Paso County hosted Friday's conversations. The collaborative's goal is to reduce suicide by 20% by 2024.

Annie Durham, who lost her husband to suicide in 2008, is working to break the barriers and stigma around the topic of suicide. She was part of the 200 people who joined Friday's conversation.

“I am very, very passionate about bringing awareness and also normalizing the conversation and removing the stigma”, says Durham. “He (my husband) basically said that he just got tired. He got tired of fighting the fight, and so that's the decision he made.”

Fourteen years later, Durham says it is her mission to share her story in hopes it'll help others.

“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,” said Durham.

Data from the El Paso County Coroner's Office shows more people died by suicide in the county in 2022 than in 2021. According to the data, 193 people died by suicide last year, which is up from 176 in 2021.

One major group impacted is the military. Fountain Police Department Chief Chris Heberer knows this personally, as an Army military member and leader for 20 years, that suicide prevention is something that hits close to home.

“As a military leader for 20 years, I lost people, friends from suicide, soldiers that served in my unit, sons of company commanders, and first responders that I know that took their lives,” says Chief Heberer. “The military has done a much better job post-Iraq and Afghanistan, of dealing with post-traumatic stress, treating it, discussing it, and I'm proud of that effort.”

While improvements have been made in the military community, Chief Heberer says that the ongoing conversation about mental health needs to be more prevalent among the community, law enforcement, and first responders.

"Specifically my experience as a male, as a military leader, as a police officer, and a first responder leader, right? There's still a lot of stigma out there. Right? There are a lot of stigmas for males to get help,” says Chief Heberer.

Community leaders, public health professionals, veterans, and suicide survivors all attended the summit. Their hope is that people get the help they need and that the conversation continues.

Leaders have compiled a list of mental health resources and organizations that can provide you with help. Many of the resources and help are free.

Help is out there, the national suicide and crisis hotline 988 is available to you 24 hours and is free.

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