Grand grapples with suicide
Prevention resources come into spotlight following record year
Grand County resident Kasy Allen was searching for support following the suicides of her nephew and a close friend, and the first thing that came up on the online results was death statistics — burying the resources she needed.
Allen, who has a background in digital marketing, knew the problem could be fixed — displaying suicide prevention resources at the top of the search — by creating a new website highlighting local options, so she worked with Grand County Rural Health Network and Grand County government to do just that.
From there, Allen and the Grand County Rural Health Network’s Community Leader Group dedicated time to making local mental health resources more accessible, including planning the You Are Not Alone community suicide prevention hike for Sunday.
“If, instead of us ignoring (suicide) and sweeping it under the rug, we talk about it and do things like this suicide walk, then we’re not sweeping it under the rug anymore; we’re saying it’s a real issue in our community, and we can start to say what can we do locally and how can we help,” Allen said.
Colorado Crisis Services Hotline —
1-844-493-8255 or text ‘TALK’ to 8255
Mind Springs Health Granby — 970-887-2179
Grand County Behavioral Health Navigator — 970-531-4669
For more, go to healthygrandcounty.org/suicide-prevention-awareness/resources/
In 2020, Grand County saw a record number of suicides with nine residents taking their lives. In both 2018 and 2019, six residents died by suicide.
Grand County Behavioral Health Navigator Sue Johnson said 2020 saw a number of stressors on mental health, including the pandemic and the wildfires. The unprecedented challenges presented last year heightened a number of factors that can combine to cause mental health concerns and suicidal ideation, such as isolation, money concerns or personal loss.
“I think we’re seeing nationwide a crisis with mental health after COVID,” Johnson said. “Some of the risk factors that we know can increase the likelihood of someone completing a suicide were really prevalent with COVID.”
Sunday’s event starts at 2 p.m. at Snow Mountain Ranch and will feature a number of local resources, including GCRHN, Mind Springs Health, Middle Park Health, Grand County Public Health, faith leaders and more.
Participants can hike to the YMCA’s waterfall, reflect or meditate, practice yoga, request songs and share their experiences with mental health and suicide. GCRHN is also providing food vouchers for participants to eat for free.
Where: 2 p.m. on Sept. 12
When: Legett Youth and Family Commons at Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby
More information: healthygrandcounty.org/suicide-prevention-awareness/walk/
Allen said Grand County has shown so much support for the event, with several participants offering free services, including yoga, acupuncture, mediation and more.
“So many businesses, companies, individuals have reached out because they see the need to address mental health in the community or because they have been touched by suicide and mental health,” she said.
Honor beads will also be available to signal the wearer’s relationship to suicide.
White beads will signal the death of a child to suicide; red means the loss of a spouse or partner; gold is for a parent; orange represents a sibling; purple shows loss of a relative or friend; silver signifies the loss of a military member or first responder; green is a sign of personal struggle; teal is for those who support someone who has attempted suicide; and blue is the general color for suicide prevention.
Allen emphasized the event is not just for people with personal experiences with suicide, but anyone wanting to help reduce suicides.
“You may not have lost anyone, but you can come if you just support what we’re doing,” she said.
On top of providing mental health support for locals, Johnson said another goal for the event is to reduce stigma around talking about mental health struggles and experiences with suicide.
“A lot of us have been struggling, so we wanted to create a safe place to do some healing and reduce that stigma around suicide and mental health issues,” she said.
Grand County’s mental health resources have expanded with 13 providers currently practicing, up from 11 in 2018. Growing alongside the availability of resources is the number of people taking advantage of them.
GCRHN’s mental health vouchers, which residents can apply for to receive care at no cost, saw a 169% increase in use from 2019 to 2020 with 128 vouchers given out.
According to GCRHN’s Strategic Initiatives Manager Christine Smith, that trend has continued this year with 86 vouchers having been issued as of the end of August.
All of the money raised from Sunday’s event will go to support the voucher program and its increased demand.
For more information about the hike, go to healthygrandcounty.org/suicide-prevention-awareness/walk/.
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