Community wants info on suicides, Hope Center says
The Aspen Hope Center knows people are concerned about the relatively high level of suicides in the Aspen area. The center is going to try to help them understand what steps they can take to intervene on March 31.
“The community has asked for a big community meeting,” Michelle Muething, executive director of the center said at a planning meeting Tuesday. “I think it’s going to be full.”
The Wheeler Opera House donated the space for the gathering as well as private meeting rooms where people with personal issues pertaining to themselves or others can meet with mental health professionals.
The format of the gathering and many of the details are still being settled, as is the time of the event. Muething said there is a good chance a similar meeting might be held in the midvalley at a later date.
Community interest in suicide prevention is running high after a period in late January and early February where there were three suicides in 10 days. “There have been four suicides in a span of a month now,” Muething said. That’s on the heels of four suicides in the Aspen-area last year.
Normally, the Aspen Hope Center doesn’t offer suicide prevention classes right after a suicide. The family and friends of the victim tend to beat themselves up over steps they perceive they could have taken with the benefit of hindsight, Muething said.
But the latest rash of suicides and the community response has convinced the center to break its rule.
Muething and her staff hosted Tuesday’s meeting and one in February to ask law enforcement officials, mental-health and public health officials, and interested citizens their advice on providing information that will be most helpful to the audience.
Aspen Hope Center already offers suicide-prevention classes. The one-hour sessions train average people to recognize signs of distress and the possibility of suicide, and how to enlist the help of professionals. A class in Carbondale recently attracted 30 people and another class in Glenwood Springs attracted 20.
The focus of the March 31 meeting will be broader than the suicide-prevention classes, but many attending Tuesday’s planning session agreed that prevention tips must be part of the discussion. Basalt Police Chief Greg Knott advised Aspen Hope Center to spend some of the time advising people how to get a friend, family member or co-worker “to the door” for professional help.
The key is friends, family and co-workers to “attach themselves” to someone who is struggling with suicide or other mental-health issues and be persistent with them to seek help.
“We can’t just pick up the phone and reach out,” Muething said. “We can only help people that walk through our door.” Telephone calls count as walking through the proverbial door.
Muething said her full staff of six is working “every single day” right now because demand for suicide prevention among loved ones is so high and the demand for professional mental-health services for people in a crisis is so high.
She believes the community can make a difference with some training. She’s convinced that information will be well received among residents.
“They don’t want to hear ‘There’s no way to fix this,’” Muething said. “They want to know, ‘here’s what I can do.’”
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