Mid Valley Forum Tackles Suicide

May 29, 2014

Janet Gordon, a licensed counselor with a Carbondale practice, speaks while Ashley Smith and Kim Nuzzo listen.
Credit Elise Thatcher

Governor John Hickenlooper has signed a new law creating a commission to tackle the issue of suicide in Colorado. Members are to be chosen within the next two months, and will include representatives from mental health, law enforcement, education, and other sectors. The commission comes as providers in the Roaring Fork Valley are also trying to figure out how to keep people from committing suicide. Representatives from the mid Valley met in Carbondale on Wednesday to continue brainstorming and educating the public. 

The Roaring Fork High School hosted the event.  Perhaps the most memorable moment of the evening was when Jill Pidcock stood up and told her story.

“One day, about three years ago, we’d had job losses, and family issues, and money was scarce, we weren’t sure where we were going to be living in a couple of weeks, and I snapped.”

She described how depression snuck up on her, in part because of stress from taking care of her autistic son.

“In a very crystal clear moment, I knew that the best thing for my family, and for me, was to commit suicide. It was--it freaked me out, honestly.”

Pidcock called her sister, and soon her family played a big role in helping Pidcock recover. But she said the struggle is never really over.

Pidcock was one of a handful of locals who talked about their experiences with coming dangerously close to committing suicide. Some had spoken at  a similar event at the Wheeler Opera House in March.  With about fifty or so attendees, Wednesday’s Carbondale event was smaller, but more focused and informative. A panel of experts fielded questions from the audience, like this one, read by Anika Neal.

“What are some warning signs that someone is in need of help?”

Tina Olson, of the Aspen Hope Center, talks at a forum at the Roaring Fork High School.
Credit Elise Thatcher

Tina Olson had this answer. She’s a clinician with the Aspen Hope Center.

“The big thing is a change in behavior. So if you’re noticing that somebody appears different, in the way that they’re speaking, if it’s on the phone. Their house isn’t well kept, they’re not taking care of themselves. There’s a number of things that you look for the but the big sign is that something is very different.”

Kim Nuzzo is an addictions counselor at a local rehab center.

“A serious drop in grades, isolation, giving up certain things that the person was doing before, and now they’re not doing them doing any more. For example dropping out of sports activities, giving up hobbies.”

The question of how to help youth who may be at risk came up several times. Ashley Smith is Director of Counseling Services at Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale.

“What I’m noticing the teenagers, is that they’re using social media to communicate everything. They’re going to tell somebody, usually not the counselors, but they’re going to tell a friend, either through, Facebook, or Instagram. If you have teenagers you need know all of that stuff.”

Roaring Fork High School principal Drew Adams said one important goal is to make sure each kid has some adult at school he or she feels comfortable talking to.

“Case in point, we just had a situation just--I mean, we’re actually still working through this situation with the student. And the really incredible work and team support from the Hope Center, and with the Carbondale Police Department, have really be able to help the student try to get back on track and try to make a significant difference.”

After the recent string of suicides, the Aspen Hope Center has expanded awareness training. The nonprofit is also now partnering with a local chapter of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI will be offering peer support groups starting in the fall, for people living with mental illness.