Each of our wonderful cities, towns and rural areas on the Western Slope has its own unique flavor and vibe, but shares a deadly similarity. In spite of the many suicide prevention programs and initiatives in place, suicide rates remain distressingly higher than in most other places in the country. Each one of us has a lot of work to do to bring about a suicide-free future.
While the suicide rate has reached unprecedented levels, this is not about numbers — as anyone who has been touched by suicide can tell you. It’s about the loss of parents, siblings, friends and colleagues and doing something to stop those losses. All possible resources available to prevent suicides in our areas must be tapped. Mind Springs Health recently adopted a new approach by engaging in the nationwide Zero Suicide Initiative. It’s an approach individuals and businesses can embrace, too.
Zero Suicide involves a fundamental and critically important idea: Suicide is preventable. For those of us who live where suicide continues to have devastating effects, this truth is empowering.
The Zero Suicide Initiative not only constitutes a commitment to active suicide prevention programs, it also provides a set of workable strategies and scalable tools to address the problem. Colorado is the first state to adopt legislation expanding the Zero Suicide program.
While preventing suicide can seem overwhelming, Zero Suicide keeps us from being paralyzed and gives us a way forward. The initiative is designed to strengthen the organizational safety net for those contemplating suicide with a systematic plan for suicide prevention. While it’s not new for communities to train individuals, the Zero Suicide approach takes on the broader challenge of equipping organizations inside and outside the health care system with suicide prevention strategies and tools.
The workplace is a good starting place for adopting an organized approach to suicide prevention as companies and organizations can have big effects when they have established plans. Schools, law enforcement and places of worship have the potential to provide great leadership in our communities. Really, any place where people are hurting is a place where an organized suicide prevention plan can help.
Take a look at the Zero Suicide website at www.zerosuicide.com. Along with an online toolkit and other resources, the website outlines seven essential elements of care for those contemplating suicide. The tools can be tailored to many different kinds of organizations and time frames, making it possible to work incrementally toward goals and expand as more people become engaged.
With one in four people experiencing a mental health or addiction crisis in a given year, we must remain vigilant and know what to do. If we don’t just talk about it, but do something — however small — about preventing suicide, it’s likely our efforts will save lives. As individuals, companies and organizations in our communities work together to close gaps in suicide prevention, we make the foundation on which we walk together stronger for the future.
Michelle Hoy works as executive vice president of Mind Springs Health. With 13 outpatient locations across the West Slope and West Springs Hospital in Grand Junction, Mind Springs Health cared for those seeking addiction treatment and mental health support. For more information about Mind Springs Health, visit www.MindSpringsHealth.org. For more information about the Zero Suicide Initiative, visit www.zerosuicide.org.