Summit County’s first suicide prevention walk raises $10,600
If you are thinking about harming yourself or you know someone who might, call the Mind Springs Health 24/7 crisis hotline at (888) 207-4004.
Other resources include the Safe2Tell 24/7 anonymous tip line for Colorado students to report threatening or dangerous behaviors at 1-877-542-SAFE (7233), the national suicide prevention hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255) and www.mantherapy.org, a website directed at men that provides an interactive, anonymous mental health inspection among other services.
A couple hundred people came together in Silverthorne to take a few thousand steps — steps toward healing, steps toward talking more about mental health, steps toward preventing self-harm and suicide.
Summit County hosted its first annual Out of the Darkness community walk, a fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, at the Outlets at Silverthorne on Sunday, Sept. 13.
Sheri Cole, the foundation’s Rocky Mountain area director, said above-expected turnout shows Summit needed the event after recent losses of students, an elected official and other community members to suicide.
A Summit High School group comprised about 60 students wore school colors and “Marco Forever in Our Hearts” bracelets in memory of 18-year-old high school senior Marco Reifsteck, who died days before the school’s graduation in May.
“We’re all kind of one big family now,” said Riley Beck, a senior and best friend of Marco’s brother, David Reifsteck.
David thanked those who attended for the support, and mother Bertie Reifsteck said she hoped bringing people together could help the next person who may be on the brink.
Kristin Anderson, a 2013 Summit High School graduate whose older brother Aaron died by suicide in October, said, “This event really brings a lot of light to a painful situation.”
She was one of many people wearing shirts with the names of loved ones or beaded necklaces with colors symbolizing how they have been personally affected by suicide and self-harm.
The event was sponsored by the towns of Silverthorne and Dillon; The Outlets of Silverthorne; Tents & Events; Summit Ford; Blue Lotus Yoga Studios; Ten Mile Dental; Summit County Elks Lodge; Lary, May & Associates; the Rotary Club of Summit County; The UPS Store in Dillon; Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant; Mind Springs Health; Copy Copy; Krystal 93; Locals Liquors; Knights of Columbus and TV8 Summit.
Silverthorne Mayor Bruce Butler encouraged people struggling or aware of someone who might need help to reach out.
“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” he said. “All the networks that are out here, from grief counseling to faith, all come in so important.”
After the 3-mile walk to the town’s Willow Grove Open Space and back, organizer and Summit resident Debbie Butler, who lost her brother and a dear friend to suicide, called participation a “huge, phenomenal success.”
The walk drew about 200 people and by Sunday had raised about $10,600, which will go to the foundation’s national and state-level research, education, advocacy and support efforts.
Suicide in the U.S., according to the most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the 10th most common cause of death, and someone dies by suicide every 13 minutes.
Since 2000, the country’s overall suicide rate has been slowly ticking up, and, in Summit, more people than ever have died by suicide. According to data from the Summit County Coroner’s Office, six people died by suicide in 2012, eight in 2013 and 10 in 2014. Suicide has consistently caused 8 to 10 percent of deaths in the county.
The issue is a growing public health concern with shrinking degrees of separation, Cole said, especially in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region, where sparse populations, less social interaction, harsh winters, extreme environments and living at high elevation may contribute to higher rates than in the rest of the U.S.
“Sadness is universal. We all have it, and some people are better skilled at moving out of sadness or have the resources around them to help them move out of sadness,” said Robin Albert, director of Summit County Youth and Family Services.
In resort towns — where year-round residents often struggle to afford housing, food, health care, child care and other basic necessities — economic hardships are strong factors in suicide.
People in the 45-64 age range have overtaken those 85 and older in the last seven years as being the age group in which suicide is most prevalent.
Men and boys, who are often conditioned not to seek social support and mental and behavioral health-care services, are four times more likely than women and girls to die by suicide. Men and boys tend to choose more lethal means, however, and women and girls attempt suicide three times as often.
People who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender are at higher risk, and suicide is regularly placed in the top three causes of death among people ages 10 to 24.
For every person who dies by suicide, 12 other people attempt, and attempts are even more prevalent among youth.
Suicides are sometimes underreported, and one problem with the statistics, Debbie Butler said, is that suicides are typically counted in the county where they occur and not the county where the person lived.
The county Healthy Futures Initiative, a grant-funded coalition that promotes healthy lifestyles free of substance abuse, has led a suicide-prevention action team that formed in 2014, and a subgroup of the team will soon analyze data from completed local suicides and look for ways to close gaps in community services and support.
Laurie Blackwell, the initiative’s coordinator, said the action team is also organizing educational opportunities and trainings over the next few weeks.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Some think if they mention suicide, the situation will worsen and the person will be more likely to act on suicidal thoughts. Studies have proven that assumption false.
No matter the relationship — whether parent-child, teacher-student, friend, coworker, stranger — don’t be afraid to ask someone how they’re doing and seek help. Experts say people struggling later say they are grateful for interventions and support.
“It’s a tough topic,” Blackwell said, but “suicide is very preventable with the right resources and people asking.”
Everyone should be aware of signs and symptoms, she said. Suicide almost always has multiple causes, and risk factors include depression, mental-health conditions, harassment or bullying, serious or chronic physical-health conditions, recent relationship or job loss, substance abuse and personal or family history.
“They say the very, very biggest thing is connectedness,” Blackwell said, encouraging people to simply check in with any classmates, neighbors or coworkers who seem off.
Tamara Drangstveit, director of the Family and Intercultural Resource Center, recommending seeing a professional behavioral health care provider, whose services might now be covered through insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s worth investigating what those benefits may be and not letting cost be a barrier,” she said, and people should encourage each other to visit behavioral health care providers in the same way they would say to a friend with a broken bone, “We’re going to the hospital.”
This year, the school district moved Suicide Prevention Month from October to September to put the resources in front of students and staff as early as possible. Summit High School teachers will have an opportunity to learn more through a Signs of Suicide training on Sept. 28, which will be brought to all the school’s students on Oct. 8.
The general community is welcome to a Dialogue Over Breakfast on suicide prevention and behavioral health on Sept. 29 from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at Summit Middle School.
Blackwell said she is looking for people to get involved in education and outreach using evidence-based programs at workplaces and community meetings, and anyone interested should contact her at 668-9196 or email@example.com.
For more information about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, upcoming Out of the Darkness walks in Colorado and online resources, visit afsp.org. People can still donate to the Summit County walk at http://bit.ly/1EWxcAc and receive T-shirts through Dec. 31.
This article has been corrected to reflect an error in the age of Marco Reifsteck.
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