By: John Ingold

June 15, 2018

Following the deaths by suicide last week of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, calls to a Colorado suicide-prevention hotline soared.

Colorado Crisis Services experienced a 60 percent increase in call volume over normal levels between Friday night and noon Sunday, said Nourie Boraie, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Human Services. Most of those additional calls came through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which routes all calls from a Colorado area code to the statewide line.

To Andrew Romanoff, the president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado, the outpouring of need shows the importance of prevention services along with the necessity of making sure everyone knows about resources available to help during a mental health crisis.

“That’s one of the reasons we are forced to respond to these crises because we didn’t do enough to prevent them,” he said.

Romanoff listed off some of the ways people can connect with help when they or a loved one are in danger:

  • Colorado Crisis Services’s 24-hour help line: 1-844-493-8255
  • The center’s text line, reachable by texting “TALK” to 38255
  • Walk-in centers around the state
  • Self-assessment screenings available on Mental Health Colorado’s website.

He said the state is also talking about how to make accessing these services easier — including with a three-digit phone number similar 911 or 411.

But he said one of the most effective resources for preventing suicide is the concern of family and friends. Parents, he said, should know it is OK to ask their children whether they are thinking about hurting themselves. Friends should ask questions, too.

“I don’t want people to be afraid to talk to their friends about what they’re going through,” he said.

This combination of 2004 and 2016 …Bebeto Matthews, Andy Kropa/Invision, The Associated PressThis combination of 2004 and 2016 file photos shows fashion designer Kate Spade and chef Anthony Bourdain in New York. A U.S. report released in June 2018 found an uptick in suicide rates in nearly every state since 1999. Middle-aged adults _ ages 45 to 64 _ had the largest rate increase. Bourdain was 61 and Spade was 55.

Michele Betts Schultz, a Colorado advanced-practice physician assistant who specializes in psychiatry, suggested some approaches.

“You don’t seem like yourself; are you having difficulties?” was one.

She said people should listen attentively, preface their questions by expressing their unconditional support regardless of the answer and be reassuring that there is a solution that can be achieved together. The most important question, she said, if someone has expressed an interest in harming themselves: “What would stop you from acting on it?”

“And I worry when they are silent,” she said.

In the toughest of circumstances where suicide seems imminent, Betts Schultz suggested a difficult choice: consider involuntary hospitalization.

“They will be grateful,” she said, “when they are healthy again.”

Article originally appeared in the Denver Post.