Officials analyzing suicides in valley | AspenTimes.com

Officials analyzing suicides in valley

Charles AgarAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN A recent suicide in Basalt has local mental health caseworkers redoubling their efforts to chink the cracks in the social services system.Phil Bradford shot himself days after a visit to Aspen Valley Hospital and an overnight drug and alcohol rehab in Glenwood Springs. There also have been two other apparent suicides since Jan. 1, according to area clinicians, who say most suicides involve drugs and alcohol, and locally they might have something to do with life in a resort town.Colorado ranks seventh nationally in the number of suicides per 100,000, according to a report by the Colorado Trust, an organization dedicated to the health and well-being of Coloradans.The number of suicides in Pitkin County ranges from zero to about five annually, comparable to neighboring Eagle and Garfield counties, according to statistics with the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.

Its a regional problem, said David Crutchfield, director of Aspen Counseling Center. Its the mountain states that have the highest suicide rate in the country.Crutchfield chalks up the number of local suicides to physical isolation in mountain areas.We always see suicides this time of year. Its like suicide season, Crutchfield said, adding he doesnt mean to sound flippant about it, but that suicide is a major problem. And its when returning to reality after the holidays that many people crash and burn, Crutchfield said.The frontier individualist mentality has a lot to do with local suicides, Crutchfield said. Many people, usually men, try to handle their problems on their own or turn to alcohol and drugs, he said.Its unusual that Ive experienced a suicide that doesnt have alcohol or drugs involved, Crutchfield said. Getting drunk or high is a way to disinhibit oneself and conjure a false bravery that enables people to end their lives. And the accessibility of firearms in rural and resort areas is another major factor, he said.Crutchfield recommends anyone in crisis contact his office where there is a 24-hour on-call crisis team.Some people, all they need is somebody to talk to them to get them through a hard time, Crutchfield said.Anyone exhibiting suicidal tendencies needs help right away, Crutchfield said.Things can happen very quickly. Things can change in hours, Crutchfield said. Suicide is very often an impulsive act.Im not really stuck with the attitude of tough love, said Vince Savage, director of Valley Information and Assistance, a case-management agency that, like many other agencies, works in concert with Crutchfield at the Aspen Counseling Center.Tough love aint love, Savage said. Its one of the things evoked when people run out of ideas.Savage met recently with other mental health and substance abuse caseworkers to discuss a recent suicide in Basalt.Its bad when something like this happens, Savage said. Everybody did what they should have done. Its just that the guy was determined to kill himself. We were all very upset by it.Bradford was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital after an apparent suicide attempt at his Truscott apartment. He spent one night in drug and alcohol rehab in Glenwood Springs, and upon his release shot himself at his Basalt storage unit.Savage said area clinicians reached out, but said helping someone is a balance between preserving someones civil rights and privacy and saving a life.Crutchfield said it is impossible to help someone without some level of patient cooperation.We take all statements about suicide seriously, Savage said.Many people have suicidal thoughts, Savage said, but he and other clinicians watch for people who have a specific plan and a means to execute it.Many people wind up in Aspen as a result of what Savage called Rand McNally therapy, or changing locations to solve problems.People gravitate to places such as Aspen seeking an ideal. And many people are disappointed when those problems trail along with them. Working multiple jobs and living in cramped quarters in a town full of the rich, famous, healthy and thin can be too much, Savage said.And that disappointment leads to depression and possible thoughts of suicide. Mix with that financial strain and the party culture of a resort town, and its a deadly mix.cagar@aspentimes.com


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