Editorial: Admitting we have a problem | AspenTimes.com

Editorial: Admitting we have a problem

It wasn’t a 12-step meeting at the Wheeler Opera House on Monday night, but the Aspen community took a critical step nonetheless: It admitted that it has a problem.

That problem is suicide, and the Community Forum on Mental Health, sponsored by the Aspen Hope Center, took the integral step of addressing the issue head-on.

Recovering addicts often say that they had to hit “rock bottom” before they began to seek help. Seeing what has happened in Pitkin County so far this year — four self-inflicted deaths — very well might have been this community’s rock bottom when it comes to suicide.

And that’s what led to Monday’s forum, where the prevailing theme from both the speakers and the panelists was to demystify the notion that suicides aren’t preventable. That’s simply not the case, but we must train ourselves to be aware of the signs that precede a suicide attempt: Detachment, disinterest, substance abuse and depression are among the evident precursors.

Yet aside from reacting to a person’s exterior signs, the forum showed that we also must be proactive if we want to be realistic about curbing the local suicide rate. Random acts of kindness — perhaps through a simple text to a friend — is one way to be proactive, said speaker Allison Daily, who lost her brother to suicide.

Additionally, said John Medveckis, a private therapist and crisis clinician at the Hope Center, it’s better to err on the side of caution when you see someone suffering. That’s done by not leaving their side and letting them know you care and also by contacting the Hope Center or law enforcement when you see a crisis. Forget concerns that you might be overreacting to a relative’s or friend’s depression or emotional crisis, Medveckis said, as it’s better to be wrong than to not do anything.

We commend the Hope Center, the Wheeler Opera House, the courageous speakers and the informed panelists for starting the conversation about suicide. This was the first step for the community to tackle this difficult and troubling problem. We hope to see more discussions that will help residents better understand this issue and, most importantly, go toward saving a person who sees no way out.