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- Coroner Dr. Leon Kelly says it’s time to do something about the large number of males, adults and teens, who take their own lives.
For Dr. Leon Kelly, El Paso County coroner, the most disturbing data point in his 2019 annual report came in the category of suicides: 79 percent of the 180 people who died by suicide last year were males. In 2018, 152 people died from suicide.
“If you agree this is something we want to do something about, the truth is, we’re not going to make significant movement in this area without acknowledging we are failing to reach young men, adult men,” he told El Paso County commissioners while presenting the report. “It’s time to have more conversations. That’s where our numbers are coming from.” Most of the suicides, 102, involved firearms.
Nothing further was said at the commissioner meeting, but an effort to reduce suicides in young and adult males could duplicate, in some form, a push some years ago to stem growing numbers of teen suicides. In 2019, there were nine teen suicides, significantly lower than some years.
In a news release, El Paso County Public Health Information Officer Michelle Hewitt described the program like this:
The Youth Suicide Prevention Workgroup, convened by Public Health, continues to work diligently to address youth suicide in our community. The Workgroup now has over 90 community partners working toward building a comprehensive community-driven solution to prevent youth suicide. Additionally, as part of sustained efforts to enhance youth suicide prevention resources in our community, Public Health continued to partner with NAMI to help expand the “Below the Surface” crisis text line awareness campaign to more than 60 local schools. This campaign aims to increase help-seeking behavior among youth by encouraging the use of Colorado’s Crisis Text Line. Increasing the utilization of this resource is crucial for our community because it means more young people are reaching out and receiving the support they need.
Other issues identified in Kelly’s report:
• The drug fentanyl continues to be a top issue.
• Drug-related deaths remained relatively steady from 2018 (133) due to decreases in heroin deaths (47 in 2018) being offset by an increase in fentanyl-related deaths (9 in 2018)
• Homicides declined from 56 in 2018 to 35 in 2019.
• Fifty-six people died while homeless in 2019, a slight decline from 2018 when 61 homeless people died.
• On a positive note, 24 people who died in 2019 donated organs, which were transplanted into 99 individuals.
“They provided life to somebody else, and that’s certainly something to celebrate,” Kelly said.
Here’s Kelly’s report: