Tuesday, September 4, 2007

When Government Helps...

The following is an article I wrote for our staff newsletter last week. Having struggled through at least 3 episodes of major depression, and threats of it while post-partum, depression awareness, suicide prevention and intervention efforts are near and dear to my heart.

In 1995, Colorado’s suicide rate was the 5th highest in the nation. In 1996, research showed our state losing 16.6 persons to suicide per 100,000 persons in population each year. The national average at the same time was a loss of 10.8 persons per 100,000 person annually. These numbers alarmed many, and in 1998 the Governor-appointed Suicide Prevention Advisory Commission developed a statewide Suicide Prevention and Intervention Plan.

Nine years after the implementation of the Suicide Prevention and Intervention Plan, Colorado has dropped down a notch to the 6th highest suicide rate in the nation. While this is a sign of progress, our rate of suicide is far too high! In Larimer County alone, one person dies from suicide about every 9 days. The highest rate of suicide occurs within the elderly population, persons 65+, especially if they are more socially isolated. Also disturbing, in Colorado, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for young persons aged 15-24.

But, there is hope. The United States Public Health Service has deemed that, “Suicide is a preventable public health problem.” We know that 90% of all suicides committed are made by persons who have mood disorders such as major depression or bipolar disorder, and/or a substance abuse problem. We know that 15% of the population will experience Major Deprssion at some time in their lives, and another 3% of the population lives with Bipolar Disorder. These are treatable conditions. With adequate mental health treatment, suicide prevention is increased. Education and awareness efforts reducing the stigma of mood disorders, along with increasing community accessibility to services are key goals in Colorado’s Suicide Prevention and Intervention Plan.

Because it has been nine years since the Plan was adopted, Colorado’s First Lady, Jeannie Ritter, is holding regional meetings across the state in September to update the Plan. Human Services Staff, HAM ahem, that would be me, along with Suicide Resource Center for Larimer County, Larimer Center for Mental Health, other service providers and concerned citizens will meet with First Lady Ritter in Greeley on September 5th to discuss what has been effective, what still needs improvement, and what could be added to the Plan to further drop Colorado’s high suicide rate.

First on my list of recommendations- better funding for mental health / substance abuse awareness, prevention (that's for the SA, can't really prevent biochemical forces in your body), and TREATMENT. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, they say. Why not help people get the treatment (meds/therapy) they need so that in turn, they are happier, healthier, more well adjusted contributors to the economy?

One idea is state tax breaks to businesses that provide EAP (Employee Assistance Plans) services for their employees.

This concludes this episode of public service announcements.

1 comment: