Teen suicides are more prevalent in Pueblo than in other parts of the state, and there are barriers to behavioral health treatment that a new report by Colorado’s Attorney community needs to overcome before things worsen.
Pueblo is one of four Colorado counties identified as having the state’s highest teen suicide rates. The four counties were part in a study released on Jan. 3 by former Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman. An 87–page report on that study, called “Community Conversations to Inform Youth Suicide Prevention,” analyzes and characterizes the trends and patterns in the fatal and non-fatal suicidal behaviors among young people in Pueblo, El Paso, La Plata, and Mesa counties. The purpose of the study was to determine the best strategies for preventing youth suicide in Colorado and to direct the state’s efforts and dollars.
The AG’s office said Colorado consistently ranks in the top 10 states with the highest suicide rate. More Coloradans die by suicide than by homicide, motor vehicle crashes, diabetes, and breast cancer, and it is the second leading cause of death for those ages 10 to 34.
In Pueblo County, teen suicide rates have been staggering. According to the report, from the beginning in 2012 and to the end of 2014 there was a rate of 10 suicides for every 100,000 youths ages 10 to 18, yet from the start of 2015 to the end of 2017 that number more than doubled to 23 teen suicides, again teens between the ages of 10 to 18, per 100,000 people.
From 2003 to 2017, Pueblo had a rate of 39 youths ages 10 to 18 per commit suicide that works out to an age-specific rate, which is based on the number teens in that age group living in the county, of 13.1. That’s almost double the age-specific rate for the entire state in that same age group over that same 15-year period, which was 7.6.
“As a result of the youth suicide rate, community organizations in Pueblo have taken steps to increase access to mental health care, train providers and other professionals to take mental health as seriously as physical health, reduce stigma among youth about seeking help, and improve positive youth development,” said Colter DeWitt, Health Promotion Specialist, Pueblo Department of Public Health & Environment in the press release. “This report will help to further guide our efforts and supplement work the Pueblo community is already doing by closing gaps and coordinating strategies and programs statewide.”