In Jefferson County, suicide is the seventh leading cause of death, with rates higher than the national average. The effects of suicide ripple through generations, influencing children and grandchildren, parents and grandparents, as well as the lives of community members across age, time and geography. Suicide doesn’t discriminate – people of all ages, races and ethnicities, genders and walks of life are affected by it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since 1999 the suicide rate in Colorado has increased by 34.1 percent. Given the alarming growth and severity of this issue, partners came together to host a Suicide Prevention Summit this month to learn about and review data around suicide and existing initiatives and to brainstorm ways the community can expand collaboration and response. The summit was hosted by Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) and Jefferson Center and drew more than 50 individuals from a variety of sectors, including law enforcement, education, hospitals, community coalitions and foundations, and more.
“Suicide is a complex issue. There is not one single cause, but rather numerous contributing factors — such as crisis in relationships, illness, a major loss, school/career stress, unstable housing, childhood trauma or substance abuse, for example,” said Sam Taylor, Youth Suicide Prevention Coordinator at Jefferson Center. “That’s why it’s so important to have cross-sector involvement in this effort. The more collaboration, coordination and communication, the greater difference we can make.”
At the summit, four key areas of work around suicide surfaced: addressing root causes, caring for survivors of an attempt or a loss (which is also called postvention), policy and coordination of care. The focus of several of these areas, particularly postvention and policy, will be to fill gaps in existing services and initiatives. For example, though there are multiple organizations in the three-county area working on suicide prevention, few specifically target efforts toward individuals who have already attempted suicide or who have had a close relative die from suicide.
In addition to the four key areas, partners will examine initiatives that focus on different age groups affected by suicide. In Jefferson County, youth ages 18-24 and adults older than 45 die by suicide at higher rates than the rest of the population. This data is especially striking given the recent reports from the CDC, which show that from 2007-2017, the number of people age 10-24 who died by suicide increased by 56 percent nationwide.
Summit organizers hope as these efforts grow and become more nuanced to meet the needs in our communities, more individuals and organizations will join in to address the issue.
“When more people and organizations get involved in addressing suicide, more people are going to be touched by and helped by these efforts,” said Sophie West, Injury and Violence Prevention Coordinator at JCPH. “As we improve and expand our efforts to address this topic, we can help prevent suicide from happening in the first place, as well as help our community heal from the wounds it has left.”
Anyone who is interested in learning more or being a part of this work is encouraged to view two reports and a fact sheet containing local data around suicide and interventions. For more information, contact Sam Taylor at [email protected].