Just last week, one more teen killed himself in northern El Paso County. Newspapers don’t usually cover suicides for fear of encouraging copycats or bringing more pain to grieving families, but this needs to be known. Silence has not been working. We have a very sad and terrifying problem. Our most precious assets are in crisis. Whether it’s in Briargate or Security, our children are feeling hopeless and making decisions that are the absolute definition of final.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for those between 10-24 in Colorado. The Colorado Health Institute reports that in 2017 Colorado recorded 1,175 deaths because of suicide — the highest number in the state’s history. This mirrors the national numbers, which have almost doubled in the last decade.
Last week, Colorado’s Attorney General Cynthia Coffman declared a crisis in Colorado when it comes to teen suicide. Her office has pledged $2.8 million to support an initiative to fight the trend. It’s a crisis we can no longer gloss over or avoid. And in El Paso County, the suicide rate among youths under the age of 18 has increased in recent years, from 7 completed suicides in 2014 to 14 completed suicides in 2015 and 15 completed suicides in 2016. Suicides accounted for over 50 percent of child fatalities among youths under 18 in the county.
Monday, students and parents from two school districts in our area will meet to discuss depression and bullying. We need more efforts like this in our community.
Local resident Anne Marie Pacitto, who has two teenage sons, says she dreads reading high school newsletters and seeing the announcements of another death, another suicide. She ponders the reasons. “Is it the parents? The educators? Child abuse? The luxury of electronics? Social media? Drug abuse? Bullying? Racism? Homophobic slurs? Academic pressure? Was the kid a social loner who had no one? Does it matter?”
Statistics show it is probably all of the above and more that results in the premature loss of young lives before they have really begun to live.
There are programs available to help teens and families deal with the issues. Many churches have assistance options. But a stigma still surrounds depression, and many never seek assistance.
Pacitto’s son told her “kids don’t reach out, because what is going to happen is that repercussions happen that make their lives worse. They are humiliated and stigmatized, and they feel worse.”
Pacitto dissects today’s world well. Our kids grow up with parents who are often trapped in their problems and addictions, she says. Adults are struggling to understand the world themselves and are not capable of being supportive and nurturing. They are on the treadmill of success and sometimes never know the despair that their children cope with every day.
In times of disaster or crisis, our community is known for its ability to come together. We must confront this issue, de-stigmatize depression and work together for a solution.
Yes it is a sensitive, private matter, but there has to be an answer to this problem that affects us all.