Mariah Shipp: Guest opinion
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
With September being suicide prevention month and yet another suicide on the front page of the Aspen papers, you have to wonder why Aspen and the surrounding area has one of the highest suicide rates in Colorado.
It is probably one of the most beautiful areas in the country, right in the heart of the magnificent Rocky Mountains. Its culture, beauty and resort living it one the best places to live in the country, yet there continues to be a very high suicide rate.
Colorado has double the national average, and Pitkin County has triple the national average. The Aspen Valley Medical Foundation commissioned a study in 2009 by the University of Colorado Depression Center, which found that historically a suicide happened every 11 weeks in Pitkin County. I find these very interesting statistics. Having lived in Aspen most of my life, I find it has always satisfied most of my needs and that the beauty of nature always seems to lift me up when I am down.
I can only speculate that some of the reason may be alcohol-related, as resorts tend to encourage nightlife (as evidence there is a very big AA community here). Isolation may be another. People who need to reach out for help may not have as many resources as a big city would have. Our community in Aspen has changed over the years, and isn’t as strong as it used to be. The expense of living here has driven many locals out and brought in part-time, seasonal homeowners. The shops that had been there for years have been replaced with real estate development companies and high-end shopping that appeals only to the pocketbooks of wealthy tourists.
I knew a young man once who took his life after a lost love. He wasn’t able at the time to look into the future and see that his lost romance at the age of 28 might have just been a door closing. Perhaps it was a lesson learned that would lead him to a new relationship around the corner that might carry him into old age with children and grandchildren. He will never know now because sometimes the pain is too great to see the next chapter of your life.
Pain masks the possibilities and what is left is giving in to the pain allowing its voice to haunt you. It covers up the voice that says: “Will this still bother me a year from now, three years from now?” You might not be able to change your situation, but you can change the way you respond to it. You may need time to cry, grieve your losses, feel your feelings, but don’t allow it to keep you from looking at new possibilities. This is a time when a friend or a therapist is needed. Don’t give up one hour before the miracle in your life could happen.
A suicidal person might not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want it. Most people who commit suicide don’t want to die; they just want to stop hurting. When you can understand their world and be compassionate, that is when you have the ability to influence and help. The moment you judge someone, you lose the ability to influence that person.
They need to know that they are not alone, they are not broken, and they are loved. They need to know that they can create a future worth living. Without a vision, people perish. They need to know that if they can conquer this challenge in their life that it will be a gift that guides their life. Many great people have overcome intense struggles and have become the better for it.
Recognize the warning signs and if you think a friend or family member is considering suicide, and don’t be afraid to ask them openly. It can save a life! Let them know you are concerned and that they can talk to you. Through understanding, reassurance, and support, you can help your loved one overcome thoughts of suicide. Seek professional help immediately if you have ant concerns or questions about a loved one.
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