Suicide prevention messages are expected to blanket Montezuma and La Plata counties in September during an expanded reprise of last year’s successful campaign to encourage at-risk residents to seek help.
Last year, thousands of stickers, postcards, magnets, street signs and billboards went up across La Plata County promoting the message, “Don’t be afraid to call 970-247-5245. ... If you can’t call, text 741741.”
This year, the Durango-based coalition Celebrating Healthy Communities is organizing a second guerrilla-marketing campaign that will focus on the same message and include Montezuma County, said Breeah Kinsella, director of the group.
Encouraging residents to reach out for professional help can break down some of the hesitancy residents feel about admitting they struggle with suicidal thoughts, Kinsella said.
A text-based option can be particularly effective for those who have not verbalized their feelings, she said.
Suicide prevention has received increased attention in Southwest Colorado since recent deaths of students under 18.
In January, two Cortez Middle School students died by suicide, increasing concern about the public health issue.
Southwest Colorado’s suicide rate outpaces the state’s.
The suicide rate in Southwest Colorado was 31.8 deaths per 100,000 during 2017. Across the state, the rate was 20.3 suicide deaths per 100,000 in the same year, according to the Colorado Health Institute.
In 2017, 18 people died by suicide in La Plata County and nine in Montezuma County, according to the state health department.
Putting up marketing materials for the campaign can bring together volunteers from various backgrounds and encourage new relationships, Kinsella said.
“It is such a scary issue. ... But projects like this make it less scary,” she said.
Last year in La Plata County, 44 volunteers ranging from 5 to 70 years old worked together on the campaign with businesses including such as hotels, liquor stores and farm supply stores, she said.
“It’s an opportunity for the community to come together in a meaningful and intentional way,” she said.
The campaign will start on Sept. 7, and training for participating volunteers will take place in Montezuma and La Plata counties in late August, she said.
This year, the marketing campaign is likely to appear in a new, still undeveloped form, she said.
Celebrating Healthy Communities is raising $5,000 for campaign and training materials on Facebook. As of Wednesday, the campaign had raised about $490.
The grant that funded the campaign last year is no longer available.
To donate to the campaign, visit facebook.com/CelebratingHealthyCommunities.
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