Suicide prevention materials

From the Colorado Department of Agriculture and Colorado Department of Human Services

Two state agencies have announced a collection of mental health resources aimed at rural Colorado communities.

The toolkit from the Colorado Department of Agriculture and the Department of Human Services includes a graphic that proclaims, “I was supposed to be a rock, but inside I was crumbling.” It advises farmers and ranchers that “you don’t have to go through it alone,” and provides the number for Colorado Crisis Services: 844-493-TALK. People may also text TALK to 3825 for confidential support.

Gov. Jared Polis appeared in a Facebook live event on Tuesday with the heads of the two departments and the Walter family. A four-minute documentary from the CDA featured the story of cattle rancher Russell “Rusty” Walter, who died of suicide in 2016 just outside of Trinidad.

“So many people still say, ‘I don’t know why Rusty did it.’ And then you tell them, ‘oh, he had depression’,” said one of Walter’s daughters in the video. “I want people to know it’s okay to not be okay.”

The rate of suicide in rural areas is higher in Colorado than in urban areas, at 27.7 deaths per 100,000 people versus 22.1 per 100,000, respectively.

“As rural areas tend to be less densely populated, social support can be more difficult to obtain during acute suicidal crises,” concluded an article from researchers in Colorado and Connecticut on the rural risk of suicides. Pointing out that firearms are the leading method of suicide in rural areas, the authors warned about the dramatic increase in gun and ammunition purchases during the pandemic as a risk factor.

“This is a critical time to ensure that knowledge regarding the risk associated with firearm access is disseminated to rural communities,” they wrote.

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