Why do we keep talking about suicide in Colorado? “I can’t really do anything about it anyway.” “It’s not my problem.” “If people want to die, let them.” I’ve heard all of these …
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Why do we keep talking about suicide in Colorado? “I can’t really do anything about it anyway.” “It’s not my problem.” “If people want to die, let them.” I’ve heard all of these excuses over the years throughout my suicide prevention work. Yet, I still continue to do my work on the Colorado Suicide Prevention Commission and nationally now. Why? Because it IS our problem.
Death by suicide is now a public health crisis, especially in Colorado, that affects almost all of us. There is hardly a person who doesn’t know of someone who has attempted or completed suicide or who has survived a loss of a family member, co-worker, fellow student or neighbor. Some statistics show that with each suicide comes nearly $1 million in workplace, personal and governmental costs. Even among those not touched directly, we are indirectly paying fiscally or socially whether it’s loss of work productivity or effects of grieving in our neighborhoods, schools or places of worship. With each attempted or completed suicide, loss survivors can become fixated on all the “why” or “what if” questions, which can bring their own lives to a halt.
Some have told me that if a person wants to die, let them. It’s their life after all. Isn’t that what we approved with the Compassionate Choices ballot measure? No. Taking your life because you are about to die due to a terminal illness is not the same. Dying by succumbing to your emotional pain and anguish can be preventable. Does anyone want their loved one or neighbor to die in pain?
Others have said that they can’t do anything about it anyway. Not so.
In Colorado, suicide is the leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24. Why? Is it their brain development timing that doesn’t allow them to understand the finality of their act? Or the TV shows or video games they see where a person is injured and gets right back up? Is it the bullying they receive at school that just becomes too painful?
Whatever it is, there are “protective factors” that we can encourage or implement that can help prevent others’ self-harm. These protective factors are things that we all can help with - like listening to each other, showing empathy and compassion for one another, showing respect and dignity for each other as humans. These are all things we can do not only in our schools, institutions and workplaces, but also in our everyday life on the sidewalk, in the grocery store, classroom or restaurant.
We can be engaged in preventive mental health activities like yoga, walking in nature, wellness coaching, or counseling. If it’s not us, we can recommend these to others who could benefit.
In honoring those no longer with us or still suffering today, consider taking action now during Suicide Prevention Month. We can all have an impact on preventing suicide by looking after each other, or even just treating each other with kindness and care. Yes, suicides continue to be on the rise, but we ALL can do something about it.
• Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) — toll free
• Colorado Crisis & Support Line: 1-844-493-TALK (8255) — toll free
Formerly a Colorado state senator, now a seminary student at Iliff School of Theology, Linda Newell is a writer, speaker, filmmaker and consultant. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.lindanewell.org, www.senlindanewell.com, @sennewell on Twitter, Senator Linda Newell or @TheLastBill on Facebook.
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