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Is Colorado's gun culture responsible for state's awful new suicide record?

Categories: News

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Photos and video below.
Update: On August 19, we noted that suicide statistics in Colorado had set an awful new record, with the rate registering its highest number ever; see our previous coverage below.

Drilling down with the help of Jarrod Hindman, the state's director of suicide prevention, reveals details behind the dire news. For instance, guns are used in about half of Colorado suicides, with men much more likely to choose this method. Does that suggest our gun culture is partly to blame for the stat rise?

Hindman can't definitively pin the increase on our state's love affair with guns or any other single factor. But he does point to a couple of important things to consider.

"If you look at the states with the highest suicide rates, all of them are here in the Rocky Mountain West, from Montana all the way to New Mexico," he allows.

Why? "Geography is part of it," he believes. "These states have pretty vast, rural geography, and what typically comes with that is a shortage of mental-health providers and services.

"Another theory about the Western U.S. is that we really embrace the mentality of rugged individualism," he continues. "That can be great in many instances. But when you're talking about suicide and mental health, you can't just bootstrap your way through it. This notion that you solve your problems on your own and don't ask for help gets in the way sometimes, particularly for the demographic that's most likely to commit suicide" -- working-age men between the ages of 25 and 64.

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Jarrod Hindman.
That's borne out by the previously released CDPHE suicide figures, which showed a rate of 19.7 "completed suicides" per 100,000 people -- a 15.8 percent increase since 2011. Of the 1,053 people who took their own lives in Colorado last year, 810 of them were men. And they definitely gravitated toward two methods.

"Usually around 50 percent of our suicide deaths are firearms-related," Hindman reports, "and males tend to use firearms or suffocation in their suicide events."

Are Colorado gun owners likelier than others to commit suicide? In addressing that question, Hindman cites a 2008 Harvard study that sought to link gun ownership to suicide rates. Although researchers found there was a definite correlation, Hindman says "Colorado wasn't in the top third of those states. It was in the second third -- so certainly a culture in the top half of firearm ownership. And that plays into it."

Mental health resources are also key, Hindman feels. "In this year's budget, $18 million was set aside for mental health crisis service, and that's a good change," he says. "We're implementing those changes now, trying to close the gap between folks who need services and those who provide those services. But I would argue that if every single Coloradan had access to quality mental-health services, there's a percentage of the population that wouldn't access them. That's why we have to work on both ends of things -- increasing access to services and getting people to think about their own wellness and recognize that mental health is just as important as physical health. In fact, they're one and the same."

ManTherapy.org, a website that uses humor in an effort to reach men who may be reluctant to seek help from other, more traditional sources, is a focus of Colorado's outreach efforts. The site, featured in our original coverage below, has attracted 285,000 visitors over its first year of operation from Colorado and all over the world. Yet whether it's achieving the goal of directing suicidal males to assistance before they can harm themselves remains unclear. "We just need more data," Hindman concedes. "It will take time to learn if men are seeking mental health or primary care services more than they have been, and to see if it has any impact on the suicide rates. But we're building in tools to try to figure that out."

Meanwhile, news of increasing suicide rates can be problematic for those who are already vulnerable. With that in mind, Hindman encourages "anyone who's in a crisis, or anyone who's worried about someone" to dial the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

"Our biggest message," he adds, "is, 'There's hope and there's help.' It's just a matter of making the connections and getting people linked to life-saving resources."

Continue for our previous coverage about Colorado's record-setting suicide rates, including photos and a ManTherapy.org video.



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130 comments
Shane Kennedy
Shane Kennedy

oh and by the way westword fire everyone on your stsff and hire people with degrees in journalism that would be a great start for raising the credibility of your magazine.

Shane Kennedy
Shane Kennedy

ummm yea and japan's suicide rate is dependent on the amount of high buildings available for people to jump off they better get rid of those.

Ramsey Lewis Flanagan
Ramsey Lewis Flanagan

Loaded question is loaded. Suicide is not a problem in itself. Sure, it's a sad reflection of our society, but ultimately it's not ethically good or bad and it would continue with or without guns. Every living person has freewill. All people should have the right to end their own life if they want to. Blaming the tool they use in the act is a total misdirection of energy. Should we blame rope and chairs for suicide too? Obviously not. Instead of blaming inanimate objects for the actions their masters conceive, why not focus on the social aspects behind suicide? By stating that suicide by gun is bad, you're implying that miserable people should suffer. By stating that guns should be controlled, you're implying that suffering will decrease. These are opposites. Statists, get your shit together.

Noah Yetter
Noah Yetter

Suicide is a fundamental human right.

Steve Oelrich
Steve Oelrich

Maybe Taiwan's charcoal and rope culture is the problem there since about half of all Taiwanese suicides either burn charcoal to kill themselves or hang themselves. What drivel.

Honey Jimenez
Honey Jimenez

This article is another good example of people wanting to blame an inanimate object for all of our problems....

Douglas Hayes
Douglas Hayes

Because if guns were outlawed, no one would commit suicide, right?

Daphne Medina
Daphne Medina

NO. MENTAL HEALTH. Address it. Make it so that its not a social stigma. Stop hiding it. Most of us are suffering from some form of it, whether its temporary or long-term. People who are mentally healthy do not reach for gun to blow their brains out.

brentondadams
brentondadams

Just like Japan right? No guns or 'gun culture' and the highest suicide rate of any developed nation.

Reading this article makes me want to commit suicide...

Maat Human
Maat Human

maybe if the world didnt suck so fucking much.. seriously.. blaming the guns why dont you..

Eric Pidgeon
Eric Pidgeon

Could this biggest jump to a conclusion ever? Could it instead have something to do with the declining mental health in our country?

Jeff Raiter
Jeff Raiter

If a person wants to commit suicide it wont matter wether there is a gun or not.MENTAL ILLNESS is the main cause of suicide. How about addressing the mental health and stop the bullying and lying .

Rich Madison
Rich Madison

Colorado is ranked the worst state in the nation for mental health care. Literally. Number 50. Maybe that's the issue. But let's just blame guns because that's easier than actually fixing anything.

Jason Dunn
Jason Dunn

Studies have shown that people are irresponsible and that having access to the array of freedoms afforded by the Bill of Rights is detrimental to their health. Freedom kills.

David DeVoe
David DeVoe

I think our suicide culture is what is really at fault here. Broken homes. Broken minds.

Peter Navarro
Peter Navarro

can you cite your source or is this all conjecture? was there a high rate of suicide by gun 150 years ago?Guns have been around for a very long time. Its not guns that kills.

Peter Navarro
Peter Navarro

GUNS DON'T KILL PEOPLE, PEOPLE DO. My gun sat in the gun case for 8 months and not once did it get up and go kill anyone...

James Normandin
James Normandin

Forget what people use to commit suicide. That's not important. But, is the fact that we are 48th nationally in state funding for mental health research/treatment. Don't blame the gun, blame the organizations who rather hash out gun legislation, than lobby accountability for the diminished mental health system. Ignorance.

Shawn Allbritten
Shawn Allbritten

Access to mental health in Colorado is no help whatsoever. They lock you up in a place full of people who have given up and are ready to die, medicate you with the most bizarre and dark-aged meds they can get their hands on, and throw you back out into the street. No help at all! I've been through this system. I've seen it with my own eyes. NO HELP AT ALL!

Douglas Evans
Douglas Evans

wuddya wanna bet guns are used in over half of ALL suicides in the US...stupid statistic to use as a way to vilify gun culture and owners

Jeremy Flores
Jeremy Flores

Unless you can show that these people would not have killed themselves without a gun, than the stats mean absolutely nothing.. Then again, with the 2nd Amendment, the talk of infringing on gun rights for ANY reason is meaningless anyway...

John Ashley
John Ashley

And I think this article and headline was a very Lazy attempt to bait readers into a pretty unnecessary debate.

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

No, but Chicago's gun laws have everything to do with their murder rate.

Chelly Serna
Chelly Serna

I really do hope all the gun nuts in this world just Darwin themselves out.

GuestWho
GuestWho topcommenter

Suicide is legal in Colorado....are lawmakers responsible for the suicide rate by failing to criminalize suicide?

James Tallo
James Tallo

This is awesome! Every time a gun owner shoots themselves, there is one less unstable person with a gun around. ;)

Tarik Ocon
Tarik Ocon

yeah, that's why people are killing themselves, available guns, nothing else to do. Sure why not?

Shannon Fender
Shannon Fender

If you can save a single person from such a death it is worth it. Every life has inherent meaning.

Nando Commando
Nando Commando

CO, CO2 poisoning is relatively painless too. Sleeping pills. If a person is determined to die, they will. You can't say those 50% would have lived given a lack of a gun. I'm a realist. Some would have not killed themselves at all. Some would have delayed and done it another way. Some would have used another method from the beginning.

Shannon Fender
Shannon Fender

If it weren't for the quick and relatively painless death you experience by suicide with a gun, I'd surmise that many people would be too scared to do it thus lengthening the amount of time they lived thus providing more of an opportunity to intervene.

Nando Commando
Nando Commando

Guns are an easy exit strategy for suicidal people, for sure. But the gun didn't convince the guy to kill himself.

Shannon Fender
Shannon Fender

We've never contended that guns are "the" problem, just a big part of the problem. Proven in 50% of suicides, no doubt.

Toches
Toches

Can someone repeat the fork analogy, I have not heard it yet.

Rob Karnisky
Rob Karnisky

Colorado's nut-cakes know who they are - now it's just a matter of getting themselves down to the nearest shrink.

Matt Corry
Matt Corry

No! People have been killing them selfs before guns! Questions like this are what is wrong!

Ted Peterson
Ted Peterson

There are a lot of studies saying things like how domestic violence and other civil disputes are much more likely to end in a homicide if a gun is present, so an increase in suicide with access to guns makes sense. As much as you (the fuming commenter reading this) are a responsible and mentally-stable gun-owner, not everyone is. It is a whole lot easier to act on a decision when you have a rash, and surefire, way to follow through. F*ck, a little kid in my hometown killed his brother over a fight for clean socks just because a gun was present. If it wasn't, it might have just ended in some black eyes.

Clifford Goose Adams
Clifford Goose Adams

Forks are used in more than half of Colorado's obesity problems, could the state's fork culture be the problem?

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Ramsey Lewis Flanagan Very interesting post, Ramsey. We're going to make it an upcoming Comment of the Day. Thanks.

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@Chelly Serna              Stupid bitch!

GuestWho
GuestWho topcommenter

@Chelly Serna   --> author of the most disturbing comment

Why would you hope that complete strangers, aka gun nuts, u.s. soldiers, police officers, law abiding u.s. citizens, kill themselves?  

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@James Tallo       Jimmy, you little twink, that is possibly the most ignorant comment I have seen on these or any pages.  What would a pussy, fuck-wad like yourself do if there weren't people with guns to protect you?  

GuestWho
GuestWho topcommenter

@Ted Peterson   If a gun weren't present the kid would have likely grabbed an available knife, hatchet, hammer, baseball bat, a rock, a piece of glass, or any other available object capable of causing harm.  Kids understand that knives and guns are dangerous and I'm sure this murdering kid knew the difference between right and wrong and knew his brother would be dead after being shot.  People of all ages do horrible things and they should be held responsible for their actions.  We can never prevent all of these tragedies but I think part of the solution is to prosecute all crimes as adults so children get the message that they are not above the law.  Too many kids think that they can steal and murder without consequences because they are minors and they know they won't be held responsible and that society will blame the parents...then these criminal children grow up to come criminal adults because they never learned the consequences of their actions.

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@Clifford Goose Adams   No.  Fat people eat with their hands.  

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