Jefferson County, Colo. — Suicide is never an easy topic to discuss, but just as Jefferson County’s population continues to grow, so has the number of people suicide affects in our county. In fact, in 2021, suicide was the eighth leading cause of death among Jeffco residents, with 154 people losing their lives to suicide just last year. Sadly, Colorado continues to have one of the top ten highest suicide rates in the nation.
Like many mental health topics, suicide is frequently stigmatized and left in the shadows. At JCPH, we understand that it’s not a comfortable topic and we want to take an opportunity to start and continue the conversation. September is National Suicide Prevention Month and Sept. 4-10 is National Suicide Prevention Week. These observances provide us with an opportunity to discuss how we can better support all people in our community.
“After several difficult years, it’s more apparent than ever that we as a community must focus on improving mental health outcomes and providing support to all those who may be struggling,” said Sophie West, Injury and Violence Prevention Program Epidemiologist and Coordinator. “While the recent pandemic shone a light on various important mental health topics, the trends we’ve been seeing in Jeffco and Colorado unfortunately go further back than that — our community needs support and needs it now.”
According to the American Society for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) [external link], which works to organize observance walks [external link] throughout the month of September in communities across the nation, National Suicide Prevention Week also offers us a chance to remember the lives lost in our community and to remind the families who have lost someone that they are not alone. In addition, the AFSP’s website shares stories of hope from real people around the country and offers sharable social media graphics for individuals to show their support for suicide prevention. For more information about other ways to observe National Suicide Prevention Week and National Suicide Prevention Month, visit the website for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) [external link].
At JCPH, our Injury Prevention program works closely with partners across the community, including professionals from law enforcement, health and medical fields, education, mental health systems and nonprofit sectors to help identify opportunities for improvement and growth of our suicide prevention efforts and initiatives in our county and region. While this work is ongoing and requires consistent commitment to monitoring numerous factors in our community and strong partnerships in order to do so, it’s an area JCPH and the public health discipline is deeply committed to.
“The most important thing to realize about suicide is that it is preventable. Suicide is not a monolith — there are many different contributing causes and factors at play,” West said. “While the data can feel overwhelming, it’s important to remember that by continuing to maintain strong partnerships and work across varied sectors and systems in our community, we can make strides towards preventing suicide in Jefferson County and Colorado.”
The great news is that improvements to increase access to support and suicide prevention resources are occurring on every level — local, state and national. One important recent development in this sphere is the development of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline transitioned from a longer phone number to this short, three-digit code across the U.S. in July. Now, anyone who needs help can receive it in just a few presses of a button.
In Jefferson County there are several other important community organizations and efforts available to those who need mental health support. If you or a loved one are struggling, we encourage you to access one or more of these resources:
- Jefferson Center — Jefferson Center [external link] works to inspire hope, improve lives, and strengthen our community by providing mental health and related solutions for individuals and families. They have a number of locations around Jefferson County, and offer programs and services foster recovery and resilience in children, adults and families struggling with mental health problems. Jefferson Center serves more than 32,000 people each year in Jefferson, Gilpin and Clear Creek counties.
- Colorado Crisis Services — Colorado Crisis Services [external link] is the statewide behavioral health crisis response system offering residents mental health, substance use or emotional crisis help, information and referrals. Its mission is to strengthen Colorado’s mental health system by providing Coloradans with greater access to crisis services wherever they are at 24/7/365 regardless of ability to pay. Individuals can access Colorado Crisis Services at any time by calling 1-844-492-8255 or texting “TALK” to 38255.
- Communities That Care — Jefferson County Communities That Care [external link] is a coalition comprised of more than 100 stakeholders, community members, key leaders and youth. We use a structured, evidence-based community change process focused on preventing substance misuse, sexual/relationship violence and hopelessness/anxiety among youth in our community by reducing risk factors and improving protective factors.
- Jeffco Families — The Jeffco Families website [external link] and Jeffco Family Navigator can help connect families with individualized support and resources, including mental health care for any member of the family.
- Healthy Start at Home — Healthy Start at Home is a Jefferson County program provided at no-cost for all pregnant women that aims to improve the health of infants and mothers alike. The program offers visits in the home from a nurse throughout a woman’s pregnancy and through the first two months postpartum, with the option to extend until the baby’s first birthday. During the visits, nurses not only act as a support system for moms and moms-to-be, but they screen for pregnancy-related depression and anxiety and similar conditions, and if necessary, make referrals to the appropriate services.
- I Matter Colorado — Colorado House Bill 21-1258 [external link] established I Matter Colorado [external link] as a temporary behavioral health services program to provide access to mental health and substance use disorder services for youth, including addressing needs that may have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is open to youth 18 years of age or younger or 21 years of age or younger if receiving special education services.
- Let’s Talk CO — The Let’s Talk Colorado media campaign works to initiate an inclusive conversation. All Coloradans benefit when we learn to discuss our mental health, and those of us who need treatment are more likely to seek it when we all agree that mental health is everyone’s responsibility. To find resources around mental health, both for yourself and how to support others, please visit the Let’s Talk CO website [external link].
“JCPH wants to remind all people in our county that it’s OK to struggle and it’s OK to ask for help. Everyone has mental health. It’s one of the things we all have in common,” West said. “The more we as a community normalize mental health conversations and accessing resources and support when in need, the more we can help strengthen ourselves and others and start to turn the tide against suicide.”
About Jefferson County Public Health
Public health is what we do collectively to prevent illness and premature death and promote health in our neighborhoods and communities. Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) is a nationally accredited health department committed to promoting and protecting health across the lifespan for all people through prevention, education and partnerships. To learn more about JCPH visit https://www.jeffco.us/public-health [external link]. You can also follow JCPH on Twitter @JeffcoPH [external link], Instagram @JeffcoPH [external link] and Facebook @jeffcopublichealth [external link].