Why is Colorado’s Suicide Rate So High?

Colorado’s suicide rate in teens has increased by 58% from 2016 to 2019, according to a new report by the United Health Foundation. That’s almost double the national average. 

The report also said that male teenagers were more than twice as likely to commit suicide than female teens. 

It’s not just teenage boys who are at risk. 

According to a report by the Colorado Trust, the largest number of suicides in Colorado happen among middle-aged men between 35 and 44 years of age, which is higher than the national average. This risk will only increase as men age. 

The report also states that middle-aged men are the least likely to seek counseling when having suicidal thoughts.

Why is this happening? What are the signs? How can we solve this problem? 

What causes someone to commit suicide? 

This is never an easy answer. It’s rare that suicide is caused by just one particular bad event in someone’s life. According to the Colorado Trust’s report, an estimated 90% of suicides are associated with substance abuse or a history of mental illness, usually depression. 

Other factors include suffering from a physical illness, having a family history of suicide, unemployment, living alone, owning a gun, or drug or alcohol abuse. 

Why do more men commit suicide than women? 

Again, there is no easy answer to this. One suggestion is male loneliness. Many middle-aged men lack close male friends with whom they feel comfortable sharing their most intimate thoughts. They feel isolated and emotionally empty, allowing these feelings to build over time until they feel like there is no more hope. 

According to this Los Angeles Times article, high rates of depression and anxiety, increased rates of social media use, and even the ongoing opioid crisis are attributed to the high rate of suicide in teenaged boys. In addition, many men still refuse to talk about their feelings or believe they can tackle their problems on their own, an unfortunate and ongoing gender role stigma that is far overdue to be squashed. 

Why is Colorado’s suicide rate so high?

The Colorado Trust report suggests that though there are no clear reasons. Western states, in general, have higher suicide rates. Because suicides tend to mirror unemployment rates, the report cites the economic downturns in the region over the past several years that may have had a factor. Though, the economy seems to be getting better, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Colorado also has higher levels of people living alone.

The report also suggests that the largest number of suicide deaths have taken place in metropolitan Denver counties such as Adams, Arapahoe, Douglas, and Jefferson. Counties with the highest rate of suicide attempts tend to be in the southern part of the state, particularly in the San Luis Valley. 

How can you tell if someone is suicidal? 

Though it can be difficult to predict, there are some common suicide warning signs. You may have reason to be concerned if someone you know does the following: 

  • Gives away favorite possessions
  • Has attempted suicide in the past
  • Makes statements about wanting to die
  • Seems depressed – appetite loss, excessive crying, insomnia, inability to think or function
  • Says things like, “I’m going away on a long trip” or “You won’t have to worry about me anymore” or other ambiguous statements
  • Gives inappropriate goodbyes
  • Buys a gun or pills
  • Abuses alcohol or drugs
  • Becomes happy suddenly after a long depression
  • Obsesses over death or suicide
  • Stops caring about work and school performance 
  • Acts recklessly 
  • Begins not caring about physical appearance and stops eating

What do I do if I or someone I know feels suicidal? 

If you or someone you know feels suicidal, please call the Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-8255 or you can also text them by texting TALK to 38255. If you are a parent and would like more information on how to talk with your teen about suicide visit Robbie’s Hope, a local support organization with tons of helpful information for parents. 

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