Loss of our youth saddens Fourth of July holiday

Monday, July 9, 2018 11:33 AM

A lovely 17-year-old girl in Bayfield took her own life on July 2.

The news always comes as a blow, and I don't know if it's better in small towns such as Ignacio and Bayfield, where we know many of our young people, or maybe it would be a little easier in a larger city, where it might not seem so personal. I don't know.

Back when I was growing up in small-town Wyoming, bad news traveled fast, of course, but in today's age of social media and instant everything, these occurrences sometimes seem even more relentless.

Once again, my heart breaks. It seems we're going through this every few months.

Then I realized, we are going through this every few months. Of the suicides I have written about or heard about this year, this is the fifth by a teenager or adolescent, just in the Bayfield and Ignacio area.

This girl's name seemed familiar. I realized I had taken her picture a few times for the newspaper, and she was friends with several teens I know. She was pretty, vibrant and confident - she did not seem like the type of person who would kill herself. Then I thought back of what I know of these young people, as well as an old friend from my hometown who killed himself two years ago. They had so much to live for. Most of us can't understand how they could choose such a final step that so horribly affects their families and friends.

From what I have read about depression, those who contemplate suicide sincerely believe they are doing the right thing, that the lives of their loved ones will be better off without them around.

Those of us left behind, of course, know that isn't true.

In my opinion, the good news today is that suicide no longer has to be swept under the rug, like some hidden secret to be ashamed of. We now realize that mental illness and depression are maladies that can happen to anyone.

"Snap out of it" and "buck up" aren't heard as much today when we talk to people affected by depression. We don't tell people with broken limbs or appendicitis to just get themselves better, so why did we expect that of people with mental illness?

The local CODY Project, created after two Durango 4-H members took their own lives in 2017, provides resources. So does Axis Health System in Durango. Southern Ute Community Action Programs offers suicide-prevention training, and members of the Ignacio Chamber of Commerce seriously discussed teen suicide at a recent meeting, asking how we as business owners and parents can help our communities.

On Friday, counselors in the Bayfield School district did a truly wonderful thing. They asked anyone who needs help dealing with life's problems to just come by and say hi at Eagle Park.

What a thoughtful gift to our community.

These young people were a gift to our community, as well. Let's try not to let their deaths be in vain.

Thanks for reading.