What One NPR Reporter Saw On A Trip To The Epicenter Of Colorado’s Suicide Epidemic

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Photo: Colorado Suicide Prevention Office Gun Safety
In this March 11, 2016 photo, gun safety and suicide prevention literature on the shelf inside the office of Jarrod Hindman, director of Colorado's Office of Suicide Prevention, in Denver.

Colorado has one of the highest suicide rates in the country, and that rate is especially precipitous in the southwestern corner of the state.

NPR national correspondent Kirk Siegler covers the divide between urban and rural America, including stories about suicide and access to guns. Siegler talked to Colorado Matters about his recent reporting trip to Grand Junction and Mesa County to continue that coverage.

Mesa County Public Health reports that the suicide rate there is double the national average. The highest rate of suicide attempts in Mesa County occurred in young people between the ages of 10 and 19 years old.

The majority of suicides in Colorado and the West are by firearm. Stigma around mental health still exists in rural areas, and men especially have a reputation of being independent, strong and not asking for help, Siegler said. There's also a lack of resources: the only mental health hospital between Salt Lake City and Denver is in Grand Junction, and it has just 30 beds.

Students on the Western Slope described the natural environment feeling like a cage, Siegler said. The physical isolation creates the hard-living, hard-partying, high-adrenaline mountain town lifestyle.