COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Updated statistics show that 151 people committed suicide in El Paso County last year, continuing a disturbing trend that has lasted for several years.
Janet Karnes of Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention said the reasons behind the high rate are a mystery. She said the county is overdue for someone to fund a study explaining what factors are involved.
Karnes said the county's suicide rate is 28 per 100,000 residents, well above the national average of 12 per 100,000. She also said the county is following the national trend toward an increase in suicide between ages 45 and 64 -- the so-called "baby boomers."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the rise in baby boomers taking their own lives began in 2008, when a recession put thousands of Americans out of work and eliminated many well-paying jobs.
"People die by suicide because they're in great pain and don't know how else to end (it)," Karnes said. "When you're financially down, experience loss after loss and see no hope for the future, that's when suicide comes into play."
The trend shows that most suicides are not committed by teens and active duty military members, she said, though a high percentage of veterans die by their own hands.
Karnes explained no one has come forward to pay for a study on suicide.
"We are not a feel-good cause," she said. "People tell us that all the time. (They're) really glad (we're) here, (they) love the work (we're) doing. But we're not a feel-good cause."
Karnes said a study is vital because for every person who commits suicide, between 15 and 25 others attempt it.
A local man who asked to remain anonymous said he tried to kill himself four times since age 16. The man, 30, said depression over his parents' divorce and addiction to alcohol and drugs were factors. He said he began turning his life around five years ago, after hearing from a fellow suicide survivor.
"Not to say that family and friends can't help," he said. "But (the fellow survivor) didn't think that my being 22 years old, seemingly having my life in front of me and wanting to die, (meant) there was something wrong with me. He understood where I was. Being able to connect with someone who understands where the mind goes, is crucial."
He said he's now clean and sober, and talks with kids to help them avoid contemplating suicide.
"There's hope, and there's help -- when you're ready for it, and if you want it," he said.
For more information, visit: http://www.pikespeaksuicideprevention.org/