Michelle Hoy: No more suicides in the Roaring Fork Valley | AspenTimes.com
Michelle Hoy
Guest Commentary

Back to: Opinion

Michelle Hoy: No more suicides in the Roaring Fork Valley

Each of our wonderful cities, towns and rural areas on the Western Slope has its own unique flavor and vibe, but they share a deadly similarity.

In spite of the many suicide-prevention programs and initiatives already in place, suicide rates are distressingly higher than in most other places in the country. Each one of us has a lot of work to do locally 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 the losses. All possible resources available to reduce suicide rates in our areas must be activated, and Mind Springs Health has recently adopted a progressive new approach by engaging in the nationwide Zero Suicide Initiative. It's an approach that not only are we taking, it's something individuals and businesses can embrace, too.

Zero Suicide embraces the critically important, fundamental idea that suicide is preventable. For those of us who live where suicide continues to have a devastating impact, this truth is empowering.

The Zero Suicide Initiative is not only a commitment to active and vital suicide-prevention programs, it's a set of workable strategies and scalable tools to address this devastating problem. Thanks to a recent bill, Colorado is now the first state to adopt proactive legislation expanding the Zero Suicide program.

Preventing suicide can seem overwhelming, yet Zero Suicide can keep us from being paralyzed in the face of such a big problem and helps give us a way forward. Here's how it works: 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 of 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 organizations and companies can have a big impact when they have an established plan. 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.

Please take a look at Zero Suicide's website, http://www.zerosuicide.com. With an online toolkit and many other resources, it outlines seven essential elements of care for those who might be contemplating completing suicide. The tools available can be tailored to many different kinds of organizations and timeframes, making it possible to work incrementally toward goals and expand as more people become engaged.

With one person in every four experiencing a mental health or addiction crisis in a given year, we all must be vigilant and know what to do. If we don't just talk about it, but do something (however small) about preventing suicide, it's very likely that your effort can save a life. As individuals, companies and organizations in our communities work together to help close the gaps in suicide prevention and care, we make the foundation on which we walk together stronger for the future.

Michelle Hoy is the executive vice President of Mind Springs Health. She can be reached at MHoy@MindSpringsHealth.org. The Zero Suicide Initiative's organizational tools and strategies are available at http://www.zerosuicide.org.