Rural Communities Look to Recognize, Battle Elderly Suicide – Part 2 in an Occasional Series

When the group updating Colorado’s statewide suicide prevention plan held an information-gathering session in Cortez recently, participants had plenty to talk about.

“A couple in their late eighties had just committed suicide,” said Susie Street.Street’s organization, Mental Health America of Colorado, has the job of modernizing a decade-old program to keep people from killing themselves. She can’t yet say how – or if – the new program will deal specifically with the elderly. But Streets readily admits to an ugly statistical fact:

“The highest rates for suicide are among elderly white men.”

In Colorado and most of the West, those rates are much higher than the national average. With Baby Boomers on the verge of reaching senior citizen status, the body count from self-inflicted killings stands to rise significantly, even if the rate stays the same.

In rural areas such as Cortez, the problem of elderly suicide is a once-dark secret that is finally being discussed, said Diana Buza, program director of the Pi