Why Are Colorado Suicides Up 34 Percent?

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Updated 09/05/2022

Denver skyline on a clear day in Colorado

In any state with a rise in the suicide rate, the question arises: Why has the rate risen so sharply? And what can the state do about this rise?

In Colorado, the statistics from 1999 to 2016 appear grim. During this time, there has been more than a 34-percent increase in suicides. What are some of the factors behind this rise? An increase in substance misuse has likely played a role.

The Story in Colorado

Across the United States, suicide rates are rising. While some states have experienced a rise of 10 to 20 percent, others have seen a much higher increase. This includes Colorado, where suicide rates have increased by 34 percent.

If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts or tendencies, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-866-489-3515.

According to the Denver Post, Colorado youth are experiencing a similar rise in suicide rates. During the 2011–12 school year, the program received 307 reports related to suicide. By the 2017–18 school year, a rise of 10 to 20 percent occurred.

Why Are Suicide Rates Rising?

Suicides often happen when people have relationship issues and financial troubles. In recent years, according to the Kaiser Foundation, there has been an increase in social isolation, with more than 2 in 10 reporting loneliness or social isolation in the U.K. and the U.S.

The Opioid Epidemic and Suicide Rates

According to the government of Colorado, “Colorado recorded 558 opioid overdose deaths in 2017 from both prescription opioids and illegal opioids such as heroin.” The rising opioid crisis was spurred on by a need for methods of pain relief, and those who used pain pills have sometimes become dependent on those pills or have turned to other drugs such as heroin.

While a person’s intention may have been to alleviate physical pain, the use of opioid drugs has resulted in widespread substance use, which has led to accidentally overdose.

States hit hard by the opioid epidemic can also experience higher rates of suicide. Seeing friends and family members go through substance use disorders or overdoses can be traumatic.

Experiencing the same yourself can exacerbate mental health challenges. That is why integrated treatment programs that address an individual’s mental health and their family’s mental health are so critical to the overall wellness of people in Colorado.

Finding a treatment program that addresses co-occurring mental health disorders can help both the person with a substance use disorder and their family.

The Warning Signs

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are a number of warning signs of suicide. If you or those you know are exhibiting these signs, then seek help to support better mental health. These warning signs include:

  • Anxiety and body aches
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Mood swings and anger
  • Sleeping a lot or too little
  • Talking about or posting about wanting to die and looking for ways to commit suicide
  • Increasing substance use

Substance Misuse and Suicide

Substances have long been used by people who are experiencing mental health challenges, such as depression and anxiety. While many substances impact the reward centers of the brain and provide a temporary feeling of wellbeing and energy, they are not a long-term solution.

In fact, because the brain becomes dependent on those substances, it becomes increasingly more difficult to feel pleasure without them.

This psychological dependence on substances is difficult to break, and it can feel even more desirable to use substances when you are in psychological pain. This is why connecting with professionals who can help you with your physical and mental health is a way to achieve overall wellness.

How to Reduce the Suicide Rate

Reducing the suicide rate is not only about addressing substance misuse but also about creating an integrated plan to support a person’s overall mental health. This includes:

  • Identifying people who are at risk
  • Teaching coping skills
  • Providing safe environments
  • Creating community connections
  • Providing resources to support mental and physical health
  • Developing temporary options for help for those who are struggling financially or emotionally

Depression and Anxiety Are Not Always Visible

While it might seem like you should be able to see if a person is anxious or depressed, according to the CDC, 54 percent of those who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition. The report also notes that suicide is not caused by any single factor.

However, addressing underlying mental health conditions can improve life in many ways, including reducing the risk of using substances to moderate your mood. The combination of mental health challenges, substance misuse and other challenges in life can lead to serious feelings of anxiety and depression.

Help Is Available for Substance Use Disorders

If you want help to treat a substance use disorder but you are not sure how to do it, talking with a treatment center can help. At a treatment program, you can find:

  • Medical assistance to help you detox from substances
  • Help for co-occurring disorders such as depression and anxiety
  • Counseling and group therapy to give you a new set of tools to help you remain free of substance use in the long term
  • Alternative therapies that will help you find a new focus in life and feel positive and healthy

While entering into a treatment program might seem like a challenging first step, it is a step that can set up a positive direction for the rest of your life.

Do you need support to address your substance use disorderAddiction treatment programs can help you address feelings of depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges that can contribute to substance use disorder.

Contact The Recovery Village Palmer Lake to learn how addiction treatment can help you manage your substance use disorder.

Social Media Posts: CDC data show a 34.1 percent increase in suicides in Colorado from 1999 to 2016. What factors influenced that steep rise?

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