October 31, 2016
Every time a new suicide happens in Colorado Springs, we mourn and we care for a little while until we forget it happened and move on to whatever we have going on the next day.
At this point, we’re not surprised when it happens; but we shouldn’t be able to say that.
On Oct. 28, Newsweek published an article “Teen Suicide is Contagious, and the Problem may be Worse than we Thought.”
Throughout this article, Newsweek focused in on the number of suicides that El Paso County, Colorado Springs specifically has seen in the last year.
In 2016, there have been 13 documented teen suicides in Colorado Springs.
High schools in Colorado Springs, including Discovery Canyon Campus, The Classical Academy and Rampart High School, have experienced the unfortunate loss of their students this year.
In May, two students, both aged 15-16 years old, committed suicide within the same week at Discovery Canyon.
One week later, a 15-year-old boy committed the same act at Manitou Springs High School.
This September, a boy killed himself at The Classical Academy North campus.
In the past and now, Colorado is known for its high suicide rates, with 19.4 suicides in every 100,000 Colorado residents as of 2014.
Newsweek’s article claimed that this is due to a suicide cluster, that suicide becomes contagious, like a virus.
Mental illness is often stigmatized nationwide. People like to make jokes talking about how “OCD” they are today, or even glorifying mental illness on their social media.
But mental illness, especially affective disorders like depression, is not something to stigmatize or turn into a joke, especially when it impacts our community on such a widespread level.
Unfortunately, depression is not a disease someone can just brush off with some exercise or a supportive family.
It is a problem that we see bright, young children taking their lives now, but it is even more of an issue that we are not actively trying to dig deep and find the cause.
According to the Colorado Health Foundation, in 2015, there were 442,280 people in Colorado that were not receiving any mental health care, compared to the 377,360 people in 2013.
High school kids are subjected to multiple pressures during their adolescence; get good grades, be involved in five clubs outside of school, be an upstanding citizen and get a full-ride to a good university.
No doubt these pressures impact kids on a deep level, but in Colorado Springs, it is more than that.
Too often than not in our community, we sweep these issues away, refusing to revisit them unless something like this happens again. And sadly, it can and will happen again.
After the double suicide at DCC, finals were not cancelled. School counselors were available to help those impacted by the event, but it felt as though not much else was done to help those who suffered.
A day after the TCA suicide happened in September, classes were back to normal schedule.
It is not enough to bring school counselors or guest speakers to discuss the issue anymore. As a community, we must actively be involved in combating these stereotypes about mental illness.
No longer can we call someone ‘weak’ for dealing with depression. We cannot call someone a ‘coward’ for their illness. We cannot be afraid to look this issue in the face and actually say the word suicide.
We must embrace it, fight it and continue the conversation on mental health.