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Mental health continues to be a struggle for many in El Paso County, but there is help

The number of suicides sharply increased between 2018 and 2019, according to a new report
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Posted at 8:41 PM, Jun 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-24 00:16:52-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Maintaining strong mental health is something everyone has struggled with and it’s important to keep track of how those around you are doing. With that in mind, suicide continues to be an issue El Paso County faces—but there is help.

“Suicide is… there’s very few things more complicated than that,” El Paso County Coroner Dr. Leon Kelly said.

It’s a hard topic to address, but it’s one everyone has a duty to confront, even though the facts aren’t always pretty.

And the fact is, newly released numbers show suicides went up in El Paso county quite a bit last year.

“2019, last year, we had a significant jump in our suicides,” Kelly said. “In 2018 we had 152, in 2019 we had 180, so that’s a pretty significant difference.”

“The issue is that there’s still a stigma around reaching out for mental health help,” said Katie Blickenderfer, Interim VP of Clinical Services for Aspen Pointe Mental Health in Colorado Springs.

But this year, despite the challenges we all face from COVID 19, there is some promising news.

“Year to date, we’re actually about 20 cases behind where we were last year with suicides,” Kelly said.

Since the pandemic hit, mental health professionals have been seeing more people seeking help., in part, because of COVID-19 safety precautions.

“We transitioned our services to telehealth in a matter of 24 to 48 hours,” Blickenderfer said. “And I think that has opened up an avenue where people can get care more easily without having to leave their home, find childcare, transportation, like all of those barriers that we’ve had previously.”

It’s too soon to know if there’s a correlation between the lower suicide numbers and the increase in mental health support, and the pandemic isn’t over yet.

“This is widespread and we’re only starting to see the mental health impact,” Blickenderfer said.

But there are some easy steps we all should still take

“It’s even more important for us to outreach to those that we care about,” she said. “To just check in with them and not assume that somebody’s just doing well because we haven’t heard from them.”

Maintaining strong mental health takes teamwork

“We are thus far, as a community, doing a really good job of reaching out and managing that stress,” Kelly said.

It’s a hard issue to confront, but it’s always worth the effort to reach out and try to help those around us.

“It’s taking a step back and trying to slow things down and focus on things that we can control,” Blickenderfer said.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of harm or suffering a mental health crisis, there is a crisis walk-in center at Aspen Pointe’s clinic at 115 S Parkside Drive in Colorado Springs. It’s open 24/7 for anyone who needs help.

You can also call the Colorado Crisis Line at 844-493-TALK.