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:
“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].