More than 40,000 Americans died by suicide last year. My cousin Melissa was one of them.
Melissa was like a sister to me. My family and I will spend the rest of our lives trying to figure out what we could have done to save her.
It’s a question we’ll never be able to answer. And even if we could, it’s already too late.
The good news: there are steps we can take to prevent suicide. That’s especially welcome news in Colorado, which has one of the nation’s highest suicide rates.
Earlier this year, our state legislature passed a bill to improve the quality and coordination of care for Coloradans in crisis or at risk of suicide. The new law promotes training for health care and criminal justice personnel to identify and address indicators of suicidal thoughts and behavior.
The legislation is based on a “zero suicide” model developed by the Henry Ford Health System. Ford saw an 80 percent reduction in suicide among patients treated for mental health or substance use disorders.
The legislature’s decision represents a step in the right direction. Here are three steps you can take:
- Look for warning signs. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (afsp.org) notes some of the things that people at risk of suicide may say or do. If someone you know describes feeling trapped, experiencing unbearable pain, being a burden to others, or having no reason to live, refer to the resources listed on this page.
- Call 844-493-8255. Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners operates our state’s 24/7 crisis and support line, in partnership with Colorado Crisis Services (coloradocrisisservices.org). RMCP’s mental health professionals and peer specialists offer free, confidential guidance. The organization also makes its round-the-clock services available by text; just text TALK to 38255.
- Get screened. Mental Health Colorado, the state’s leading advocate for the prevention and treatment of mental health and substance use disorders, has posted nine screening tools on its website (mentalhealthcolorado.org/screenings). Taking a self-assessment – for depression, anxiety, or another condition – is quick and easy.
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Let’s make that our motto every month.
Andrew Romanoff is President and CEO of Mental Health Colorado.
This article first appeared in El Semanario’s September 8th edition.