One suicide is too many


“If you are that depressed, reach out to someone. And remember, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

— Robin Williams, “World’s Greatest Dad.”

Statistics indicate that there were 39,518 suicides across the United States in 2011, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death. That year, someone in the U.S. died by suicide every 13.3 minutes.

In 2009, 13 confirmed suicides in Archuleta County placed the county high above state and national averages.

On Monday, actor and comedian Robin Williams became another statistic.

News of a high-profile suicide can impact others struggling with depression. Suicide prevention experts note that in the weeks following someone famous taking their own life, suicides could spike between 2 and 12 percent.

We know very little about what drives someone to take their own life. A consensus of local officials and experts is that economic hardships are a contributing factor. Archuleta County Coroner Carl Macht noted that only 40 percent of people who take their own lives leave notes to help us understand why.

According to one website, at least 90 percent of all people who died by suicide were suffering from a mental illness at the time, most often depression.

SUN reporter Randi Pierce’s 2009 article on Archuleta County’s crisis received statewide recognition for Public Service from the Colorado Press Association in 2010. That article included the following warning signs to watch for:

  • A significant change in eating habits — either decreased or increased appetite.
  • Significant weight gain or loss.
  • Withdrawing from family and friends.
  • Increased substance abuse, including drugs and alcohol.
  • Statements about hurting themselves or committing suicide.
  • A sense of hopelessness or that what one is doing is not enough.
  • Sleeplessness.
  • In men especially, an increase in irritability, anger, frustration.
  • Behavior that deviates from the norm.
  • Loss of future orientation.
  • An element of loss.
  • The loss of a typical daily routine, which can follow events like retirement.
  • Increased anxiety or stress.

If warning signs are present, individuals are encouraged to reach out to family, friends and professionals. Loved ones are encouraged to ask the hard questions — asking if the person is thinking of hurting themselves or committing suicide.

Locally, Axis Health System offers a 24-hour crisis support line. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, call 247-5245.

You can reach the Crisis Call Center
at (800) 273-8255 or text ANSWER to 839863,
or visit

Numbers for the National Suicide Hotline
are 800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
or (800) 442-HOPE (4673), 24/7, or visit

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
number is (800) 273-TALK (8255), 24/7,
or visit

Thursday’s Child National Youth Advocacy Hotline
is 800-USA-KIDS (872-5437), 24/7,
or visit

We may never understand what drove Robin Williams to take his own life, but we do know that one suicide is too many.

Terri Lynn Oldham House