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Lost Youth: A rise in teenage suicides highlights a looming crisis for Pueblo County’s youth.

A spike in teen suicides and attempted teen suicides in Pueblo last year is a matter of concern that is being met with a sense of urgency by local police and behavioral health professionals. “We at the Pueblo Police Department are affected and concerned about these tragedies,” says Officer Brandon Beauvais with the department’s Community Services Division. “Our officers wh…

A spike in teen suicides and attempted teen suicides in Pueblo last year is a matter of concern that is being met with a sense of urgency by local police and behavioral health professionals.
“We at the Pueblo Police Department are affected and concerned about these tragedies,” says Officer Brandon Beauvais with the department’s Community Services Division. “Our officers who respond to these calls along with the families and friends of the victims are all impacted. This certainly is a community-wide issue, and we must all work together on the preventative side of things to get these individuals the help they need before loss of life occurs.”
Preventative measures are being taken by police in tandem with others. “We work closely with our CIT [crisis intervention team] clinicians from Health Solutions [in Pueblo] who are out with us on patrol to provide initial resource information and follow-up with these type of incidents or parties involved,” Beauvais says.
Health Solutions is a non-profit behavioral health care organization and has been providing behavioral health services since 1962. The organization provides behavioral health services to Pueblo, Huerfano and Las Animas counties.
Kristie Dorwart, Youth and Family supervisor at Health Solutions, has been working in suicide prevention since 2007.  She became interested in the field because of the widely perceived disgrace associated with suicide and mental health.
“I have had family members die by suicide and had a growing interest in the reason for so much stigma,” she says.
Dorwart is unaware of a career path or any way by which someone can be trained to work in suicide prevention. “It is more of a lot of immersing oneself in suicide prevention: reading on suicide prevention and attending training in the field.”
All of that reading and training is being put into practice in Pueblo.
Pueblo PD’s Beauvais says, “Generally speaking, on suicide attempts, they will be taken for medical treatment immediately and once that is taken care of they are put in contact with a hospital psych liaison who decides from there what the best option is moving forward as far as a hold or further help, treatment, additional resources, etc., while working with parents or guardians.”
Jeff Tucker, a public relations specialist with Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo, says the hospital does not treat teen attempted suicides any differently than adult suicide attempts. “Attempted suicides are one of the highest priorities in our Emergency Department and a behavioral health assessment is usually given following life-saving treatment,” he says.
And last year more attempted teen suicides occurred in Pueblo County than in the past five years.

Nine too many

In 2017, nine young people in Pueblo County between the ages 10 and 20 killed themselves, according to Coroner Brian Cotter. That compares with only three teens committing suicide in 2016, another three in 2015, two in 2014, one in 2013, and six teens in 2012. Cotter also reports that suicides among all age groups also spiked in 2017 compared with the previous five years — 28 in 2012, 34 in 2013, 47 in 2014, 46 in 2015, 34 in 2016, and 49 last year.
In the city, Pueblo Police Department incident reports show that over the past three-plus years, it responded to six teen suicides last year, one incident in 2016, and one in 2015. Mercifully, there have been no teen suicides in Pueblo from January to March in 2018 as of deadline.
The police also report there were 12 incidents of attempted teen suicide last year, another 12 attempts in 2016, and seven incidents of teens attempting suicide in 2015. And as of March of this year, two incidents of attempted teen suicide have been reported.

Why?

Health Solutions Dorwart explains that suicide is the result of a string of complex emotions. “There is not one single reason that someone dies by suicide,” she says. “There are many things that happen to a person that leads them to contemplate suicide.”
Shelby Miller, Parkview’s adolescent charge nurse on the hospital’s behavioral health floor, says poverty is a major facto…
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