An alarmingly high 18 teens age 18 and younger took their own lives in El Paso County in 2015 — half of them only 14- and 15-year-olds — and the numbers are too high for 2016. There are efforts underway by diverse groups to provide some solutions, but more people need to get involved. Young adults, age 19 to 25, are struggling and dying in even higher numbers. In 2013, the number of young adults dying increased dramatically. What happened in 2013 for this age group? Why do their numbers continue to be so high? What are the struggles, worries, depression and mental health problems among young people locally that lead them to choose death?
Both age groups need a community-wide solution. Keep this in mind: Suicide is a preventable form of death.
If you are worried someone may be thinking of suicide, you need to ask directly, "Are you thinking of suicide?" Share what behaviors, words, actions or situations you are witnessing that have you worried. For example: "I have noticed you are isolating yourself, seem very sad, talk of hopelessness. Sometimes that can mean someone is thinking of suicide. Are you thinking of ending your life?"
Once someone says yes, or hesitates, take a deep breath and remember that suicide is not the problem, it is the perceived solution. If this is someone you have a relationship with, you can take the next step by listening. If this is an acquaintance, a stranger or you are not able to help this person further, hand it over to Colorado Crisis Services (844/493-8255). This free, state-funded crisis line has all the local resources and can direct people in need to the Crisis Stabilization Unit, if appropriate. AspenPointe operates the CSU 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is also state-funded, so the assessment and services do not cost the client.
Now for the next step. If you can help this person further, ask what is causing so much pain. Now LISTEN to what they are saying. Do not begin telling them all the reasons they should stay alive, just listen. You can instill hope later. Suicide is a complex issue; it is seldom for one reason. What else... what else... is causing the hopeless feelings/thoughts? Sometimes being able to be honest with another human being can ease the crisis. Once again, depending on your relationship, ask if they have a plan. If they have a plan that can be carried out, get them immediate help. Can you help disable the plan? Will they let someone else take the gun out of the house, hold the bottles of pills for them until they are with a professional? Help them find hope. Suicidal people feel hopeless. Never leave a suicidal person alone.
Situations that can put a person at risk:
Recent deaths, especially if by suicide
Losses (jobs, school, unwanted moves, finances, break-up of a relationship)
Worries that are overwhelming
Being bullied or harassed
Unresolved abuse or rapes
Suddenly stopping or improperly taking medications
Drugs usage and alcoholism
Warning signs they might be thinking about suicide:
Saying discreetly or overtly that they want to die... it won't matter soon... no one would care if I was gone.
Being suddenly at peace after a period of depression.
Making plans for their departure: being obsessed with death, giving away prized possessions, saying goodbye, no talk of the future, asking someone else to take a pet.
Thinking that others will be better off without them.
(For a more detailed list, go to our website: pikespeaksuicideprevention.org.)
Trust your intuition. If the behavior feels abnormal, it probably is. Have the courage to acknowledge what you see and be willing to direct the person to help. Make the phone call for them. There is help available.
Janet Karnes is the executive director of the Suicide Prevention Partnership.