Suicides in Larimer County last year reached all-time high

By Amber McIver-Traywick

The Surveyor

Suicide continues to be a major concern in Larimer County. According to Larimer County Coroner James Wilkerson there were 84 suicides in the county in 2019, a grim all-time high.

Despite media reports that drug overdoses have increased during the first half of this year in Larimer County due to the COVID-19 pandemic Wilkerson says he hasn’t seen any correlation. The county averages around 50 overdose deaths a year with last year seeing 44 of those incidents, “We have spikes in different deaths throughout the year, and over several years. Suicides in and around the holidays, motorcycle deaths in the summer, etc. It is not productive to speculate on the total deaths for the year based on deaths during a shorter time period,” he commented.

Wilkerson’s comments come after the 2019 report his office produces annually was made public recently. He also commented that he sees the suicide numbers as an even greater concern than overdose deaths county-wide though neither should be taken lightly.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many health care professionals have expressed their concerns about the toll the pandemic will take on mental health globally. On Tuesday the Director of the Center for Disease Control, Robert Redfield during a webinar at the Buck Institute said, “We’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than we are deaths from COVID.” Redfield did not site where that information came from but anecdotal information from health professionals around the country would affirm that.

Wilkerson stated that so far this year, “We have seen a few non drug-related suicides due to job loss, bankruptcy, etc. because of Covid and these may increase over time,” but said until there is a full year of data to compile a complete picture wouldn’t take form.

The majority of these deaths in 2019 according to the report were white males with an average age of 42. The oldest adult was 83 years old and three victims were under the age of 18, the youngest was 13. Of the 21 females who ended their own life, the majority were between the age of 18 to 30 years old. The report also notes that 63% of those who committed suicide had prior ideation, expressing to others they were considering harming themselves or had previously attempted to end their life. Drugs and alcohol were present in 70.2% of those who committed suicide. July 2019 saw the greatest number of these deaths in Larimer County with a total of 12 in that month alone.

Suicides have been increasing in the county since 2010 when there were 51 reported. Numbers varied slightly until 2014 when cases spiked to 83. Larimer County had 80 total reported suicides in 2018.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment suicides in Colorado have been steadily increasing in recent years, going from 1,175 deaths in 2017 to 1,287 deaths in 2019.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says that less than half of adults with a mental illness receive treatment in a given year. One of the most telling statistics about the benefit of seeking help with mental health concerns is the fact that 70-90 percent of people with mental illness saw an improvement in their symptoms and quality of life after participating in a treatment program. This is according to research conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, that also has stated depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. 

If you or someone you know are struggling with mental health concerns the Colorado Crisis Services line can be reached at1-844-493-8255 or by Text Talk To at 38255 or visit coloradocrisisservices.org. The organization says there is no wrong reason to call if you are struggling with any mental issues including but not limited to anxiety, loneliness, depression, financial pressures, family crisis, substance abuse or suicidal thoughts.

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