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There have been 12 suicides so far this year in Eagle County — five more than the annual average and a staggering pace of 23 per 100,000 residents. The Colorado per capita suicide rate was 20.3 per 100,000 residents in 2016, which is well ahead of the national rate of 13.3 suicides per 100,000 in 2015.
What’s alarming to Eagle County Public Health and Environment Director Chris Lindley, an epidemiologist by trade, is that a county of just over 53,000 people is on a record pace for suicides this year and we’re just now entering the holiday season when there are typically more suicide deaths.
“Right now in Eagle County this year there’s been 12 suicides,” Lindley said. “Nobody’s talking about that. That is more than last year, and we’re only part way through the year. The majority of those suicides have been women. Normally suicides are 9 to 1 men to women.
“Why aren’t we asking ourselves what the hell is going on? Why are our moms and our sister and our daughters taking their lives? What are we missing here?”
Anyone in need of free, local 24/7 crisis services, for themselves of for a friend, should use these numbers:
But Lindley also urges people to connect with other people. Look out for your friends and neighbors and ask them how they’re doing.
“We’ve got to change this culture of everything’s just in time and I’m going to text you or Facebook or Twitter you versus I’m just going to walk up and ask you how you’re doing, or I’m going to go for a walk with you, or I’m going to come hang out,” Lindley said.
“We have to schedule and make time to have personal interaction with each other. We are fundamentally human, we’re mammals. We’re designed for that. And I think one of the biggest increases in mental health illness is a lack of social interaction that people are having.”
Nothing can substitute for actually interacting with other people and assessing their mood, Lindley said, especially this time of year.
“As technology improves, it’s actually hurting us,” Lindley said. “It’s not helping us. Talking to someone via text message, there’s no real social connectiveness between two people. You can’t read their body language or anything like that.”
The Iraq War veteran and former state health department worker also would like to see dramatically stepped-up mental health services in Eagle County, where there currently are no in-patient beds for mental health or substance abuse issues.
Eagle County Ballot Issue 1A, being decided by voters Nov. 7, would change all of that with a tax on recreational marijuana to fund mental health and substance abuse services throughout Eagle County.