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Live Your Lyrics: Colorado man organizes fundraiser to support suicide prevention

Live Your Lyrics: Local man organizes fundraiser to support suicide prevention
Posted at 1:25 PM, Sep 14, 2023

BROOMFIELD, Colo. — September is Suicide Prevention Month, which serves as a chance to raise awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding conversations about suicide.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports suicide is one of the leading causes of death in Colorado.

Dave Sluiter teaches graduate classes at the University of Colorado at Boulder. As an engineer, he likes to have answers.

"We want our two plus two to equal four, yes," Sluiter said with a smile. “When these extraordinary circumstances are thrust upon you in life, you may not have an answer to the question.”

Denver7 met with Sluiter at his apartment in Broomfield, where he has been staying since his Superior home was burned in the Marshall Fire. At one point, Sluiter lived in Superior with his partner, Ann.

“She was very bubbly, very happy, smart. Wicked Smart. Scary smart sometimes, which I really appreciated, and very kind. She was a very kind person," Sluiter said about Ann. “She sold her place and moved in with me. And it was fantastic, up until that day.”

That day was April 24, 2017.

“Unbeknownst to me, [Ann] went into a very dark place in her mind," said Sluiter. “She was really struggling with self-worth issues. She believed she had financial issues, and her solution was to go out and purchase a gun... She got up one morning and went downstairs, got in her car and shot herself in the head.”

There's no good way to describe the emotional toll finding Ann had on Sluiter. He said he self-medicated in the months following her death, and barely left the house.

“If you had known Ann, you would have thought there's no possible way. She was a well-respected paralegal at a firm down in Denver, well respected within the legal community. Nobody knew that she had gone to this very dark place," Sluiter explained. “I use the word devastating. And you may have heard other people that have been through this use that same word. It doesn't really encapsulate the impact of losing somebody that you love and care about like that... It's sudden, it's unexpected. You go through a whole range of emotions, anger, confusion, depression, sadness, lots of unanswered questions. Why? How? What was the reason?”

Sluiter had to work through grief classes and therapy to reach a place where he realized his questions will never be answered. It took him six months to pick up his guitar and start playing music again, which helped him work through his pain.

"What I wanted to do was take my grief and my sorrow and redirect it into something positive. Because I was really going in a very negative direction," said Sluiter. “I woke up one morning with this idea about holding a musical event where we could raise money for a boots-on-the-ground mental health organization.”

Sluiter decided to host a fundraiser called Live Your Lyrics. The first event was held in September 2017, the same year Ann died.

The fifth Live Your Lyrics fundraiser is scheduled for Sunday, September 17, at Nissi's Entertainment Venue & Event Center in Lafayette. Doors will open at noon, and music will be played from 1 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. There will be three bands this year. Sluiter said proceeds from the function will go to Mental Health Partners, serving Boulder and Broomfield counties.

“Bring people together for a day of music, hope and joy," Sluiter said about the event. "Also, I want to work to bring down the stigma associated with conversations around suicide.”

The National Institute of Mental Health reports warning signs of suicide may be:

Talking about:

  • Wanting to die
  • Great guilt or shame
  • Being a burden to others

Feeling:

  • Empty, hopeless, trapped, or having no reason to live
  • Extremely sad, more anxious, agitated, or full of rage
  • Unbearable emotional or physical pain

Changing behavior, such as:

  • Making a plan or researching ways to die
  • Withdrawing from friends, saying goodbye, giving away important items, or making a will
  • Taking dangerous risks such as driving extremely fast
  • Displaying extreme mood swings
  • Eating or sleeping more or less
  • Using drugs or alcohol more often

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or suicidal thoughts, help is available immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline can be reached by calling or texting 988 at any time of day. Colorado Crisis Services can also connect individuals with local support and resources, by calling 1-844-493-TALK.