Kymber Ryan: Guest opinion

The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

I don’t know about you, but my heart is in pain with the news that we lost another local to suicide this month. This valley is ready for fresh ideas for dealing with the suicide issue that has become a scourge on our community. It is time that we stop simply expecting that people here will end their own lives and begin to ask the question, “What can we do about it?”

Perhaps it’s time for a frank forum in the media or a monthly article in the papers that addresses suicide and brings it out of the shadows, showing those who consider suicide as the only alternative that there are other options. That there is life after depression, financial problems and drug issues. That suicide is a selfish act that solves nothing and leaves so much pain for those who are left behind. I think that both the community and potential victims could take strength from an open and honest discussion of this personal act that affects so many.

I know. Because I have been there, and I’d like to share my story.

On the outside to those around me, I have always been that happy girl. Friendly, athletic, hardworking. But sometimes you just don’t know what is going on inside a person. Twenty-one years ago, I had written my good-bye letter. I had a full prescription of antidepressants, and I was on my way to ending the deafening hopelessness that I was feeling. I got to a place where I entered a dream-like state. I was exhausted and empty of everything. After writing my letter, I felt free. I knew what to do next.

As I set my plan in motion and got ready to end it all, someone began banging on the door. I now know that that someone was my angel. I told him it wasn’t a good time, but he insisted on fixing something in my room; I think it was window treatments. I remember sitting on the sofa waiting for him to be done, which felt like a million hours.

Finally, because he took so long and I was so overwhelmed with exhaustion and depression, I fell asleep before taking the pills.

When I awoke the next day, I fled my bed and screamed a life-affirming “f—!” I thought of my family and friends and was just so happy that I did not succeed in the stupid act I was considering. It seems that my angel, Eric Hansen, an EMT and a Snowmass ski patroller, had sensed that there was trouble. His actions saved me and prevented me from doing something truly stupid. I’m glad he is still around because I was able to tell him what he did for me. I’m lucky to have an angel in my present life.

I tell this story because I feel compelled at this time of loss to share. If this story can help even one person, then it’s worth opening my experience to this valley. And I’m certain there are many others who have been there, as well. Who have their own stories that didn’t end in death but resulted in change, both in attitude and circumstance.

Jeff Walker’s death has raised this issue once again for many friends of both his and mine. The sadness and loss are overwhelming, but it seems that many just shake their heads as though this is an expected outcome here. They cite drug issues as a trigger for some people, but many are clean and sober when they make the final decision. Money issues come up, as there are those who feel they are worth more dead than alive in this, the richest of communities. Then there is clinical depression. Something that can be treated only if those who suffer from it seek help.

If you Google “Aspen Suicide Prevention,” the first site that comes up is a suicide-prevention hotline called “The ASPEN Project” in, of all places, West Virginia, where suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 24. How ironic that they use the name of our community as a beacon of hope?

Here, we have the two-year-old Aspen Hope Center, which provides a telephone link that is answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the caller is connected to a licensed clinician. It can be reached at 970-925-5858.

From Hunter S. Thompson to Bill Rieger to Walker, and all the others in between, we have a terrifying legacy in this community. It is time that we do something to address it.

Kymber Ryan has lived in Aspen since 1989.