Photo Credit: Courtesy of San Juan Basin Public Health
Photo Credit: Trennie Collins | The Southern Ute Drum
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Are you trained for prevention?

The Colorado Health Institute states that in 2017- 1,175 people died from suicide. Mountain states continue to have high rates of suicide each year, coming in ninth, Colorado is determined to make a change to these numbers, especially in La Plata County.

            2018 was a year full of progress, prevention and education for the state. Amongst that trend, Ignacio has been small part of the state reeling back from heartbreak, and hoping to turn it into an awareness that will lead to prevention.

            In Colorado for every suicide completion there are 25 attempts. In La Plata County alone, there were 34 deaths by suicide, which is above the national average. In 2016 the national average was 13.42, which is the rate per 100,000 individuals; in 2016 Colorado was ranked 10thin suicide deaths.

            San Juan Basin Health, along with other organizations, have made it a goal to educate and bring knowledge to our community through the Collective Impact Suicide Prevention Process. This method is a community based, multi-sector process that reduces the suicide rate in the region through aligned agendas and strategic planning. Steering committees have been formed, strategic planning, suicide awareness, suicide prevention, protocol of care, training community response to suicide and youth involvement workgroups have been ongoing in La Plata County.

Celebrating Healthy Communities and Communities That Care have both welcomed the Ignacio community with open arms when it comes to suicide prevention and awareness. Hosting numerous outreach projects within Ignacio School District and throughout the community. Celebrating Healthy Communities and Communities that Care made a big presence at the first annual “We Care Fair” hosted by the Southern Ute Indian Tribe in September of 2018, each sponsoring informational booths to educate our community as part of this free event.

“I think one of the things I’ve learned and love the most about Ignacio is that when adults express that they want to build a healthy community for their neighbors they aren’t just talking,” Breeah Kinsella, the new director of Celebrating Healthy Communities emphasized. “I’ve seen people in the town, government, the Tribe, the schools, the community center, casino and the community members with no professional ties to prevention, work tirelessly to not only bring resources and education to the community, but also dig into authentic relationships with people they know. These are the cornerstones of our mission and Ignacio truly walks the walk.”

            When it comes to our unique and culture filled community there have been a couple of standout ambassadors who have went above and beyond to make awareness happen. One of those people being, Sage Frane, SunUte Community Center’s Group Fitness Coordinator.

            In the fall of 2018, Frane completed the Youth Mental Health First Aid Training. The eight-hour course teaches you how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The training gives you the skills to reach out and provide timely help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance abuse problem or experiencing a crisis.

The first Youth Mental Health First Aid training that Frane will be teaching will be in February of 2019. Frane hopes to reach out to her immediate staff at SunUte, then start reaching further into the Tribal Departments and to the Ignacio community.

“My hopes are that this training will empower our entire community to feel more comfortable and open to discuss mental health issues that our kids are struggling with and be able to get them the help they so desperately need,” Frane said. “There is a huge need for all of us to show our youth that we care and that we are here to help them. If we never talk about it, how can we begin to create the change?”

            Along with the suicide action plan that was created two years ago, different suicide prevention and awareness trainings have been held for tribal employees. Safe to Talk and QPR (Question. Persuade. Refer) are two trainings that were both offered in 2018. With its second year well under its belt, the Albuquerque Area Indian Health Board (AAIHB) and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe still continue to address prevention through a Strategic Action Plan (SAP). Their main goal being to “Strengthening community wellbeing by increasing awareness of the importance of having a suicide prevention intervention,” according to the SAP.

            Right here in our community there are tons of resources available to those who are struggling. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe and divisions, Tribal Services and the departments under it have been in the game for a long time.

            Vocational Rehabilitation aids Native Americans with disabilities, and yes, that includes mental health. “We have funding that can be used to train individuals in topics related to disabilities. We recognize that we have a role in the preventative efforts to address a suicide crisis in our community,” states Bobbie Rosa, program manager for the Tribe’s vocational rehabilitation program.

            In 2018 the Ignacio community as well as the Southern Ute Indian Tribe have both taken a huge step forward in trying to bring action and prevention to this crisis.

            Native Americans rank number two in suicide deaths. In order to take care of yourself be willing to reach out to someone, make a safety plan and find support. “Mental Health needs to be addressed just like physical health problems,” Frane said.

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