County’s suicide, overdose rates shockingly high

By Julie Drake

RBC Director of Public Health

RBC |  I try to make my columns relevant with stories, observations, etc the people of Rio Blanco County can relate to.  This week, no fluff.  Just the facts.  I will let this information tell the story.

Suicide rates for Rio Blanco County:

2008 to 2010  – 4 suicides for a rate of 20.9 (state rate 8.5)

2011 to 2013 – 3 suicides for a rate of 14.9 (state rate 9.4)

2014 to 2016 – 6 suicides for a rate of 30.5 (state rate 10.2)

Drug overdose rates for Rio Blanco County in 2016:

3 deaths for a rate of  52.2  (compared to Routt:  6 deaths for a rate of 23.2)

Out of 64 counties in Colorado, Rio Blanco ranks second for drug overdose death rate.

Motor vehicle crash deaths in Rio Blanco County:

– 2007 to 2017:  20 people (10 deaths were alcohol-related.)

(Rates are manipulated numbers that allows direct comparison of  a county with a small population to a county with a very large population.  Rates are true and trusted numbers.)

Each of these facts have their roots in mental health.  If someone is struggling with depression and they do not have professional help, they often self treat with drugs and alcohol.  This self-treatment never cures, but rather compounds the situation.  Sadly, many individuals with mental health struggles complete suicide as a way to end the pain. 

Everyone in Rio Blanco County has had a mental health issue.  Yes, arguably, everyone!  An infant with separation anxiety, grieving the death of a family member or friend, going through a divorce, moving or changing jobs.  Granted, many of the illnesses are like the common cold, or a painful splinter, you recover and resume your typical life.  However, some illness needs professional help and medication for recovery.  Depression, eating disorders, psychosis, bipolar and alcohol use disorder, just to name a few. 

If you don’t recover from a mental illness resist the urge to self-treat, please get help.   Start the discussion with your primary care physician, a local counselor or minister.  They can refer you onward if the situation warrants.  If you, a family member, friend, or co-worker is in urgent need please be aware of these numbers:

– Colorado Crisis services:  844-493-TALK (8255)

– Mind Springs Health:  888-207-4004

– Veteran or military crisis line: 1-800-273-8255

Suicide prevention:  1-800-273-TALK

All Rio Blanco County Residents are precious.  Let’s work to reduce these “numbers” to zero and find ways to help us all thrive!

Julie Drake is RBC’s Director of Public Health