One Person’s Experience with Suicide and Becoming Mental Health Champions 

At an event called “Changing Minds about Mental Health,” I witnessed one of the most courageous presentations I can remember, which was made by our Edwards nurse, Kathleen Chiocca. Kathleen eloquently described the need for the community to understand and address mental health issues, particularly suicide. Kathleen’s very emotional description of how suicide has impacted her and her family’s lives was sobering, yet I was so inspired by her strength in challenging all of us to step out of our comfort zones, and address the challenges others face.
Thank you Kathleen for your vulnerability in bringing these important conversations forward. In our service area, in 2014, the age-adjusted suicide rate in the region of 27% was significantly higher than the state (19.4%) and national (12.1%) rates. Pitkin County averages four suicides each year. Please see below for information from the Colorado Health Institute about suicide prevalence in Colorado.
Finally, if you know of an employee, family member or community friend who needs support, Mountain Family Health Centers now has a team of incredible mental health professionals who can provide assistance. Please be as courageous as Kathleen, and proactively obtain help for yourself or those around you. Let’s all change our minds and the conversations around mental health moving forward.

Colorado has struggled with a rising suicide rate for the past decade, reaching a historic high of 19.7 suicides per 100,000 residents in 2012, when 1,053 Coloradans committed suicide. In 2010, the most recent year for which national data is available, Colorado had the eighth highest suicide rate in the country, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
Nationally, suicide rates for people between the ages of 35 and 64 increased 28% between 1999 and 2010, reaching a rate of 17.6 suicides for every 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Colorado, people in that age group accounted for 41% of suicides between 2008 and 2012 according to CDPHE. The 45- to 54-year-old age cohort committed the most suicides – 1,044 – of any age group during that time period (see Graph One below). Males in Colorado are about three times as likely as females to commit suicide. Between 2008 and 2012, 3,426 males committed suicide and 1,042 females committed suicide.
Suicide rates vary by region across Colorado. Lowest rates are found in Douglas and Weld counties, while higher-than-average rates are found in northwest Colorado, Mesa County, and the central mountain counties. (See Map).
Depression is often a factor in suicide. Nearly two-thirds of the Coloradans who commit suicide were suffering from depression at the time of their deaths, according to CDPHE.
Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS) data show that Coloradans between the ages of 30 and 49 reported the highest level of poor mental health at nearly 14 percent, followed by people between the ages of 19 and 29 at 12.1 percent and those between 50 and 64 at 11.5 percent.
Colorado is working to reduce depression and suicide. As part of its “Ten Winnable Battles,” Colorado’s goal is to reduce to five percent the percentage of children in 9th to 12th grade who report attempting suicide, and to reduce to five percent the percentage of adults who report suffering from depression.
Ross Brooks
Chief Executive Officer
Mountain Family Health Centers
Courage was last modified: February 1st, 2017 by Lindsey Lewis