Keeping the conversation going this month and beyond
By Kendra Walker
The Mt. Crested Butte town council approved a proclamation designating September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in the town and recognizing suicide as a national and statewide public health problem. September also overlaps with the World Health Organization’s World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10.
According to CDC data, 1,384 people died by suicide in 2021 in Colorado, which ranks sixth in the U.S. for rates of death by suicide. Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S., the second leading cause of death among children and teens ages 10–14 and the third leading cause of death among those ages 14–24. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, over 90% of the people who die by suicide have experienced symptoms of a diagnosable and treatable mental health condition, although often that condition was not recognized or treated.
Tri-County Health Network regional health connector Mary Burt attended the September 5 town council meeting to request the Suicide Prevention Awareness proclamation.
Burt stressed the importance of continuing the mental and behavioral health conversation and noted that Mt. Crested Butte was the only municipality to respond regarding the proclamation. However, Burt said Gunnison County is doing the most out of the six Region 10 counties in the Tri-County Health Network, which includes Hinsdale, Delta, Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel counties.
Several organizations in Gunnison County are working on helping those struggling with mental health, including Crested Butte State of Mind, Gunnison Valley Health’s Behavioral Health Department, Gunnison Valley Health Foundation and Tri-County Health Network. Burt also stressed that people can call Colorado Crisis Services to talk to someone locally and discreetly.
Tri-County Health Network is also working with the Colorado-National Collaborative for Suicide Prevention, which is a partnership of local, state and national professionals working to identify, promote and implement comprehensive state and community-based strategies for preventing suicide.
“Thank you for keeping this conversation going,” said Burt. “Talking about suicide is not only the first step in preventing it, but also in healing from it. Local governments are in the unique position to help start the conversation around suicide during the month of September and year-round. I appreciate your courage to help reduce the stigma that comes with this topic, and I know your community members feel the same.”
This weekend, locals have the opportunity to support the fight against suicide on Saturday, September 16 at the annual Trek for Life fundraising West Maroon hike event (https://trekforlife.net). Proceeds go directly toward helping individuals who are underinsured or do not have insurance access Gunnison Valley Health Foundation’s mental health services.