Fifty seven people. That’s how many died by suicide in Mesa County in 2022, which also represented an increase in the county suicide rate for the second straight year. The county has had a consistently higher suicide rate than state and national averages for more than a decade.
While no one can say for sure, there are many contributing factors, explained Shae Lynn Watt, a data analyst with Mesa County Public Health. The agency released its annual report on suicide Wednesday and found that some of the biggest stressors connected to these deaths were drugs and alcohol, relationship issues and physical health. Access to medications and guns also seem to have played a big role, with people using a firearm in more than half of deaths.
“And so that broad spectrum understanding of what leads to suicide, makes it hard to pinpoint one thing that is resulting in our increased rates,” Watt said. “But it also gives us this tremendous opportunity for everyone in our community to be involved in suicide prevention.”
Helping people feel more socially connected is key, Watt explained, as is increasing suicide awareness and access to suicide education, both for the public and medical professionals.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please contact the Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255
Watt said key questions include if “the doctor who sees you or the nursing staff, have they been trained specifically to interact with people having suicidal crisis?”
Another prevention technique is participating in the county’s medication take-back programs, where people can dispose of medications that could be used in an overdose.
Even though suicide deaths have been increasing, Watt thinks these efforts have kept the situation from getting even worse. For example, the rate for people under the age of 25 seeking help at emergency rooms for suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts rose very quickly between 2018 and 2020, but has since leveled off.
“I would like to see the rate going down, of course,” Watt said, “but I feel like we've managed to put some interventions in place that have stopped the increase, at least, which is a start.”
She hopes the county can similarly help working-age adults, men in particular. In 2022, the majority of deaths were between the ages of 30 and 49 — with men nearly fives time more likely to die by suicide then women.
Watt said she hopes people experiencing suicidal thoughts know “this is a community working to give them hope and a path toward a brighter tomorrow.”
If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, call or text 988, to speak with a certified member of the American Association of Suicidology. To reach the Crisis Text Line, text CO to 741741 from anywhere in the United States, anytime. A live, trained crisis counselor receives the text and responds, all from a secure online platform.
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