CBS4 News is featuring a special series of reports this holiday season called the 12 Days of Christmas. The following story is written by CBS4’s Jamie Leary.
DENVER (CBS4) – Suicide is a topic that many people are afraid to talk about.
“It took me a long time to seek help because of the stigma. I kept thinking ‘There shouldn’t be anything wrong with me,'” said Hope Hyatt, a survivor and now advocate who is helping those struggling with the thought of suicide.
Hyatt is one of many operating what’s called the Peer Support line for Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners. Hyatt is able to provide guidance from her own experience.
“We are the experts in ourselves. That’s the expertise we provide here. We are the experts in our own recovery,” she said.
“We provide in-the-moment support to help with those feelings of isolation. We are a confidential call center and are here to support those in need with hope and resources,” said Hyatt.
Specialists answering the phones at RMCP range from professional clinicians and peer support specialists like Hope who are trained to deal with crisis, and provide lived-experience support.
RMCP operates the Colorado Crisis Services Line and Support line. It acts as a gateway to statewide crisis resources.
All have been trained to handle a wide range of calls, from gambling addiction to depression or suicidal thoughts and more.
“From a very typical request for a resource, to somebody who might be actively suicidal. I think because we are here 24/7 with that expertise, that it’s the right place to start. I’s best place to start,” said Bev Marquez, CEO of RMCP.
For Hyatt, her role extends beyond helping people through the crisis line. She is the supervisor for the Peer Support line. Hyatt manages a team of people who have lived-experience with mental behavioral health issues, and/or who are living in recovery.
Randy Hursh is part of that team. In his role as a peer support specialist, he is able able to provide a very different yet equally valuable service to the crisis line. Randy is a recovering alcoholic and says his addiction nearly cost him his family and his life.
“I just knew that this was going end badly in some way,” said Randy.
He says not a day goes by that he doesn’t think about having a drink, but now he has a great support system and says helping others helps him in his recovery. Especially with the holidays in full swing.
“The isolation that folks feel intensifies around the holidays. There are a lot more folks, through choices they’ve made in their lives, they’ve become separated from their family and they want to connect but they can’t. A lot of people are getting together and it’s festive … there are decorations and parties and gatherings and they want to be a part of it but they can’t so they call and they hurt,” said Hursh.
“I’ve been lonely so you just be there with them. If something comes to mind suggest … that they can go to places where people gather. It’s tough. Sometimes we hold that hurt for them for a little. But, I do this work and I love coming here because I am around amazing people and I get to help others. The heart in this room is tremendous.”
Since the phone lines at RMCP started ringing in 2010 , the calls have increased significantly. Through the Colorado Crisis Line — 844-494-TALK (8255) — RMCP currently manages more than 75,000 calls per year. With the continued growth, the organization is starting to see new trends.
“The trends have been, the sheer volume being one but the other is the acuity and the intensity of calls during different parts of the year or after a horrific community event. We’re also hearing from a younger broader demographic since we’ve added the text (messages option) and we’re very painfully aware of the rise in suicide in Colorado,” said Marquez.
For Colorado, the suicide rate is one of the highest in the country. According to data released this year from the Colorado Health Foundation, there are 19.5 suicides for every 100,000 residents, which represents 1,058 deaths in Colorado in 2014. That’s up from 16.5 in 2007.
The support team at RMCP is large with a wide-range of professional and personal experience. So, despite the unfortunate growing need for crisis services in Colorado, there is always someone on the line ready to listen and help.
“To provide that hope, that empathy and to really support folks in the moment is incredible. It enriches my life,” said Hyatt.
For more information about the services provided at RMCP, you can visit the website metrocrisisservices.org.