Suicide has tough new opponents

Effort under way to address high rate for men who live in La Plata County

The stunning suicide rate among La Plata County men ages 25 to 54 has brought a call from concerned groups for a community effort to combat the chilling trend.

A town hall meeting is scheduled from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Durango Community Recreation Center to kick off the campaign.

In La Plata County, the rate of completed suicides among men ages 25 to 54 last year was 36.5 per 100,000 population – nearly three times as great as the overall rate nationally (12.4) in 2010.

“There are a couple of theories as to why the suicide rate is high in Colorado as a whole,” Jarrod Hindman, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Office of Suicide Prevention, said last week.

“The Mountain West, where the top 10 states for suicide are found, tend to exhibit a cowboy mentality – fix the problem yourself, pull yourself up by the boot straps,” Hindman said. “The West also has many rural areas where mental-health services are limited.”

The Southern Ute Community Actions Program, or SUCAP, is convening the Tuesday meeting to introduce an online suicide-prevention resource.

Fictional Dr. Rich Mahogany’s (actually a Denver actor) irreverent online program is the foundation. On the interactive website, Mahogany, with salty language and male-oriented humor, urges men to talk about anything that’s bugging them – anxiety, aging, substance abuse, anger, sexuality, sadness, fatherhood, loss of job, relationships or suicidal thoughts.

The website has links to telephone numbers of help organizations, actual testimonials from men who have solved mental-health problems and a group-therapy site where participants can post questions and get answers. There are facts and statistics, and, if time is of the essence, a hotline number for dire situations.

The marketing campaign was developed by the Colorado Office of Suicide Prevention, the Carson J. Spencer Foundation and Cactus Marketing Communications.

The SUCAP suicide-prevention effort is funded through a grant from Hindman’s office.

SUCAP also will continue a 3-year-old program that has focused on suicide prevention among veterans, Native Americans, the elderly, homosexuals and first responders.

The SUCAP program has two levels – a three-hour session that teaches how to recognize a person who might be contemplating suicide, and two days of training on how to intervene with a suicidal person.

A minimum of eight people is required for the three-hour class.

“We’ll go to you,” said Harlene Russell, the SUCAP suicide prevention program coordinator.

The two-day Gatekeeper program requires 20 participants because two paid instructors are used.

The new online campaign focuses on men 25 to 54 years old. But sponsors hope to reach men of all ages, medical providers, employers or anyone who wants to prevent suicide.

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