GRAND JUNCTION, Colo (KKCO) Unfortunately, the battle against suicide in our area rages on. According to the Western Colorado Suicide Prevention Foundation, the national suicide rate is 12 deaths per 100,000 people. In Colorado, it's 18.7 per 100,000, and in Mesa County, the latest data show it's 20.2 per 100,000. Several local agencies are hoping with continued awareness, the number will start to go down.
Erica Kitzman's daughter Kaylan would have been 27 Tuesday, July 31st. "A few weeks before she died, she mentioned to me that she thought it would be so much more interesting if the obituary said why," says Kitzman, an advocate with the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Kitzman is using her daughter's death to help save lives. "When she died, I said ok, well, I'm going to honor that." Kitzman now raises awareness that suicide can happen to anybody. "Physicians have a really high rate of suicide, and so do musicians, artists, soldiers; we're losing the best and the brightest of society."
Experts say suicide is preventable, and you can help. "You should absolutely ask them, asking them is not going to make them think about it or do it, asking them is the right thing to do; if you're still concerned after asking them you should ask somebody for help," says Michelle Hoy, LPC, CAC III, Regional Director with Colorado West Regional Mental Health, Inc. in Grand Junction.
There are many reasons for why the suicide rate in Mesa County is so high. "Our isolation, our rural nature, I think there is a rugged independent mentality that could be a part of it, availability of guns," says Karen Levad, Executive Director with the Western Colorado Suicide Prevention Foundation.
But while the problem remains, local advocacy groups are working on several solutions. "We're really reaching out to the business community to encourage them to bring training programs to the workplace," says Levad. While we get wrapped up in our busy lives, someone you love may be suffering. "Suicidal thinking is really common, it happens to one out of 5 people; it can come from having a really high fever, mental illness can be that simple," says Kitzman.
Studies show you can save a life by saying one thing. "Can I stay with you until we find some way to help, and please don't die; I just couldn't stand it, these are things I didn't know when my daughter died; I know them now," says Kitzman.
The latest data show Delta County's suicide rate is at 13.8 per 100,000 people. Garfield County's is at 12.8, and Montose County's is at 16.3.
There are many resources available to prevent suicide, as well as volunteer opportunities and activities. Officials remind you if you're affected by suicide, you're not alone.
The following are several resources to help you.
National Alliance on Mental Illness Western Slope
Western Colorado Suicide Prevention Foundation
Colorado West Regional Mental Health, Inc.
VA Medical Center
1-800-273-8255 *Press 1 for Veterans*
Heartbeat/Survivors After Suicide
Meets 3rd Tuesday of each month at 7:00pm
3190 12th. St. (Miller House)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) Institute