Bargell: Sturdy mountain community copes with suicide
Special to the Daily
Take out your phone, now” she ordered. It was a voice of authority that really couldn’t be ignored — or else. So I did what the woman told me to do. I took out my phone and dutifully typed in the number (888) 207-4004. It is housed in my contacts under CRISIS. The number is the 24/7 crisis line available through Mind Spring Health, the organization that provides mental health services in Summit and Grand counties. Mind Spring offers treatment for emotional issues, substance abuse and behavioral problems. Kathy Davis, Mind Spring’s director, offered the number in connection with Suicide Prevention Day, Sept. 10, and reminded our group that September is Suicide Prevention Month. The reminder came on the heels of the suicide that stunned the world, and left no doubt that mental health issues impact even people who seem to have the world at their feet. Mind Spring professionals treat the health issues that too often are dismissed in our sturdy mountain culture, where it seems more commonplace to mend a torn meniscus than to treat a tattered mind, when the latter damage may be far more crippling. The bold directive underscored the importance of caring for the mental health of our community, and that there are resources and people who want to help.
The Mind Spring website makes no bones about it. “Suicide and mental crisis in youth is a Western Slope epidemic that effects all of us.” A sad fact indeed. Earlier this year I attended a memorial service for a young man who took his own life. He was the son of a high school friend, one I had been in and out of touch with through the years. When our group of friends heard her older son had died of an overdose last year we rallied in support — realizing none of us could understand the measure of her grief. Nearly a year later her younger son, agonized over the death of his older brother, took his own life. The banner at the memorial service — “Brothers Together Forever” — did little to ease anyone’s heavy heart. Nothing could do justice to the despair of the family.
I overheard a man talking nearby, saying they had such a great weekend that he should have recognized the suicide risk would be on the upswing when the weekend ended. I know nothing about suicide prevention, but I do know that lows often come after reaching new heights. Apparently, this was the one low the young man could not shake.
After hearing from Kathy, and taking in the frightening statistics related to suicide — on average nearly 3,000 people commit suicide daily, according to the World Health Organization — I searched for some practical advice as well. The National Association of School Psychologists offered an article giving tips to promote good mental health in our kids. One suggestion that jumped out at me was promoting resilience. “Adversity is a natural part of life and being resilient is important to overcoming challenges and good mental health.” Knowing life will deal its fair (or possibly unfair) share of highs and lows seems intuitive as I get older. Understanding that even from the lowest of lows things eventually turn around might be a lifesaving skill. Recognizing, however, that we might not get there on our own makes the number in my phone, and the people who really care, like Kathy, a local resource that should not be forgotten. Not during suicide prevention month, or the months that follow. I don’t know if I’ll ever have to make the call to the crisis line, but it will be in my contacts if I ever need it — I hope it’s in yours too.
Cindy Bargell is an attorney and a mom who lives outside of Silverthorne with her family. Supporting Children’s Mental Health: Tips for Parents and Educators, available on-line at http://www.nasponline.org/resources/mentalhealth/mhtips.aspx.
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