A string of suicides has sparked a community meeting on the subject. After three deaths in period of ten days, the Aspen Hope Center held a gathering yesterday on how to better tackle the troubling problem. Counselors, law enforcement, residents, and others met in Basalt.
Participants discussed how to raise awareness around the issue of suicide. At first they struggled to know where to start...but during the next two hours, those gathered suggested different tactics… like advertising on RFTA busses or holding a race. Mental health counselor Kersten Wilson has a private practice in Carbondale… and works part time with Mind Springs Health, a mental health provider.
“Another idea is having coasters, in all the bars and restaurants perhaps, that have questions that maybe prompt if you’re having X, Y, and Z problems, reach out.”
Michael Buglione is a deputy with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. He says he was heartened by the busy turnout at last yesterday’s meeting.
“If we put our heads together and take away the stigma of talking about suicide, and that’s kind of what I got out of today, is that we just need to talk about it, not have it be taboo.”
He’s one of the trainers working with the Hope Center for helping people spot friends or family at risk of committing suicide… and Buglione is Deputy Coroner for Pitkin County. He describes how he tries to foster open discussion even at home with his daughters, when it suicide comes up on the job.
“And I talk about it factually, and matter of factly, and so they’re used to asking questions. And I answer them honestly.”
A common theme during yesterday’s meeting was finding ways to repeatedly get the word out about suicide… that brings us back to the beer coaster idea. Michelle Muething is Executive Director of the Aspen Hope Center, which hosted the meeting. She says the organization is open to evolving its outreach.
“We’ve tried to address the community at large, and I think what the community is telling us now is you need to dial down and really reach subsets of the community, rather than the community at large and see who shows up.”
Muething says the Hope Center has already changed part of its program since the recent tragedies. Normally experts there don’t hold extra awareness events after recent suicides. That’s to make sure they're not causing extra pain for friends and family struggling to recover from the loss of a loved one. This time, Hope Center trainers have added nearly back-to-back suicide prevention trainings in the coming weeks, thanks to last minute requests. And participants in yesterday’s meeting were asked to do this:
"Talk to the people in your life, really pay attention to the people you come across, from the cashier you’re friendly with at City Market to the CPA that’s about to do your taxes. Sity with people who you can look at and say, If I said to you, come to a suicide prevent class, what would you say to me, and if you say no, rethink how you would get them to go.”
In the meantime, there’s plans to post suicide awareness pamphlets across the Roaring Fork Valley next week.