During the early morning hours of Monday, Dec. 30 officials with the Summit County Coroner’s Office responded to a report of a death of a 29-year-old Dillon Valley man.
The manner of death was consistent with suicide, a coroner’s office release stated, marking the second such call in the span of about eight hours.
The first suicide call was initiated at about 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 29 by the Arapahoe County Coroner’s Office. In that case, a 28-year-old man was transported at an undisclosed time Sunday by Flight for Life helicopter from his residence south of Breckenridge to Swedish Medical Center in Englewood. The man was pronounced dead shortly after being admitted, the release stated.
The Arapahoe County coroner was seeking a transfer of jurisdiction because the victim is a Summit County resident.
Dr. Tim Keeling, Summit County coroner, said the events of Sunday and Monday bring Summit County’s total suicide deaths to eight, more than any other year since 1993 and up from six in 2012.
Since 1993, Summit County has not experienced a year without at least one suicide death, according to coroner’s office records. The lowest occurred in 1994 with one. The previous high was seven in 2006, according to records.
On average, about 8 to 10 percent of the deaths recorded in Summit County each year are due to suicide, Keeling said. With 2012 being a relatively high year for deaths with 75 total, it appears the 10-percent trend will continue this year.
“We’re not necessarily seeing a percentage increase in the number of suicides this year, but it is concerning that the number of suicides has been increasing in recent years,” Keeling said.
Suicide is not simply a Summit County health concern.
More than 1,057 Coloradans died by suicide in 2012, the highest number in state history, according to the Colorado Office of Suicide Prevention’s 2012-2013 legislative report. The age-adjusted suicide rate was 19.7 per every 100,000 residents and there were more deaths by suicide than car crashes, homicide, breast cancer and diabetes.
Additionally, there were more than 2,777 hospitalizations for suicide attempts in 2012 in Colorado, upping the total suicide attempt rate to 51.6 per every 100,000 residents.
Brenda Gierczak, board chairperson for the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado, said suicide is a growing issue for Colorado and a number of western states. With men making up the majority of the state’s suicides, 810 of last year’s 1,053 deaths, she said suicidologists have been working on a number of theories to find out why so many men take their own lives in the West.
One of those theories stems from some of Colorado’s and Summit County’s more attractive selling points; big skies and wide-open spaces.
“We’re not right on top of each other like people are out in New York,” Gierczak said, highlighting one theory that distance, isolation and a feeling of disconnect from other people may be a contributor to suicide in Colorado. “A lot of people move here from other places and they lose their support system back home.
“There also is that Wild West mentality that if your thinking about it (committing suicide), you just pull up your boot straps and do it.”
Suicidal tendencies in men only are exacerbated by their reputation of being less likely than women to seek out mental health services, Gierczak said. In an attempt to navigate around that stigma, the state launched in July 2012 www.mantherapy.org, which provides men with an interactive 18-point mental health inspection that can be performed anonymously, among other services.
Between July 2012 and September 2013, more than 44,873 Coloradans visited the site, in addition to 322,842 from around the world, the legislative report stated. More than 54,000 visitors completed the anonymous “head inspection.”
“Men may take their lives more often than women, but the number of attempts by women also is on the rise,” Gierczak said. “Although December has not historically been the highest month for suicides, it’s still a lonely time for a lot of people around the state.”
Anyone thinking about harming themselves or know someone who might are encouraged to call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or visit www.mantherapy.org.