People who gathered in Durango on Saturday as part of the annual International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day talked about their grief of losing people they know, but most on their mind was: Why is suicide so prevalent in our community?
Eighteen people have died by suicide in La Plata County in 2017, according to La Plata County Coroner Jann Smith. Across the nation, suicide rates are at a 30-year high.
Durango counselor Kati Bachman said people ages 45 to 62 are the leading group to complete suicide, but there is no answer to why the numbers are as high as they are.
“As a society, we are taught that we control other people’s paths and journeys, and we absolutely do not,” she said. “No matter how many people love you, you are on your own path.”
Bachman said some research suggests mountain towns have an elevated rate of suicide because of high altitude and isolation.
“There is the belief that it effects the dopamine levels,” she said. “I don’t know if that data is significant, but it is being researched.”
More than 30 people attended the event, where they watched “The Journey: A Story of Healing and Hope,” a documentary about suicide loss experience, and a short feature film, “The Journey Revisited.”
In between films, participants shared their stories about coping with a loved one’s death.
Bachman said there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
“You are allowed to experience whatever emotions come to you today,” she said. “We are not supposed to be alone in grief and healing.”
Amie Bryant, a counselor who helped organize the event, said attendance numbers at Survivors of Suicide Loss Day events have gradually increased over the years.
“Anecdotally, it seems like attendance has increased slightly, but not drastically,” Bryant said. “The first year, the event was not well-attended, but it went up slightly over the years.”
Bachman said attendance may be affected by the stigma about suicide and mental illness.
“It is just now we are starting to have the courage to talk about suicide,” Bachman said. “Speaking out and sharing is what makes today so special and important.
“Our relationships with the people who died aren’t finished, it’s just different now.”