In partnership with the Office of Suicide Prevention at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the University of Colorado Depression Center has released data that suggests a dramatic rise in suicides in Colorado in 2009.
Last year, 940 Coloradans died by suicide, 155 more than any previous year and an 18 percent increase since 2007; the previous high was 805 suicide deaths in that year. It also represents a suicide rate – 18.4 deaths per 100,000 residents – that is the highest Colorado has experienced since 1988 (18.9 per 100,000).
The largest increase has been in men age 25 to 44. The rate for younger people did not increase significantly, but four times as many teenagers killed themselves as died of cancer in 2009. The data was approved by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
"There are a lot of things that confer some risk of suicide. At any given time, there are many people who are vulnerable and then things happen that throw people into crisis," said Michael Allen, M.D., director of research at the Depression Center. "However, suicide is preventable. It's OK to ask for help and everyone should be prepared to help. The tragedy of 940 suicides and many more near-misses touches thousands of Colorado families, friends, schools and businesses."
High unemployment rates, decreasing mental health and other safety-net services, the current conflicts in the Middle East, and continued societal stigma that keeps those in need from seeking help may have contributed to the increase.
While mental health and suicide prevention experts cannot say that the 2009 data represent a trend that will continue in 2010 and 2011, the 2009 data indicate a strong need to make suicide prevention and intervention a priority public health issue in Colorado. More Coloradans die by suicide each year than die in motor vehicle crashes and homicide combined. Motor vehicle fatalities have been dramatically reduced through public health efforts and yet we continue to view suicide as an individual issue rather than a public health problem. More people must be made aware that suicide is preventable and that suicidal thoughts should be viewed and treated like any other serious health problem.
September is Suicide Prevention Month, providing Coloradans an opportunity to learn more about suicide and suicide prevention. Colorado remains a leader in suicide prevention and intervention efforts, with many great organizations throughout the state working to decrease the burden of suicide in their communities and throughout Colorado. Working statewide, the Office of Suicide Prevention at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Depression Center at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado and Mental Health America of Colorado are dedicated to promoting suicide prevention and intervention efforts throughout Colorado.
Locally, many nonprofit organizations and community mental health centers work to reduce suicide in urban and rural areas throughout Colorado. For information about suicide prevention and intervention, or to find out about the organizations dedicated to preventing suicide in your community, please visit the Office of Suicide Prevention at www.coosp.org, or the Depression Center at www.coloradodepressioncenter.org.