Suicide Prevention

Monday was World Suicide Prevention Day. Here in the Mountain West, we have some of the highest suicide rates in the country.

Courtesy of Hope4_2Morrow

A Colorado-based suicide awareness organization has released their first public service announcement aimed at stopping teen suicides.


The suicide of nine-year-old Jamel Myles has put a spotlight on the growing number of youth suicides. Myles was a Denver elementary school student who had just started a new year of classes. His mother told The Denver Post he recently came out as gay and was being bullied at school.

Matt Bloom/KUNC

The casting call’s location wasn’t glamorous but it would do the job.

Sporting an oversized Bronco’s jersey, Shannon Hawley passed out consent forms to a group of a dozen students at a McDonald’s in Greeley. The ad he’d posted on Facebook about a week before had paid off.

“Weld County, Colorado,” the post read. “I am looking for teenage boys and girls to be part of a very powerful social media commercial addressing suicide prevention.”

It went on to list the casting call’s time, date and location.

Matt Bloom/KUNC

As students across the state head into another school year, safety and security remain top priorities for educators. Another challenge is preventing teen suicides.

Courtesy of Mental Health Matters Larimer County

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience some form of mental illness and 20 percent of children between the ages of 13-18 live with a mental health condition. In Larimer County, 83 people died from suicide in 2016 according to the county coroner’s office.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

The House just passed a bill to create a 9-1-1 type service nationwide for suicide prevention. This change could be especially important for our region, which has some of the highest suicide rates in the country.

When Dorothy Paugh was 9, her father bought a pistol and started talking openly about ending his life. Her mother was terrified but didn't know what to do.

"She called our priest and called his best friend," Paugh recalled. "They came and talked to him, and they didn't ask to take his gun away."

Her father was 51 when he shot himself to death.

Matt Bloom/KUNC

A chorus of voices fills a Denver call center, coming from the rows of soldier-like operators in cubicles.

“Colorado support line. This is Caroline,” a female operator says. “Who am I speaking with?”

The caller’s words are muffled, inaudible to anyone but the operator. In the next cubicle, a male operator is finishing his conversation.

Each day about 20 veterans and active-duty service members take their own lives. It's a stubborn number that hasn't changed much since 2005. If the trend continues, 100,000 veterans and troops will have been lost to suicide by the end of this year.