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El Paso County's high suicide rates among adults, teens highlighted in Newsweek report

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Posted at 5:16 PM, Oct 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-19 19:16:55-04

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. – How does a city ranked in the top-five places to live in the country end up with one of the nation’s worst suicide rates?

That’s exactly what Newsweek tried to answer in a new report released Wednesday on the growing amount of suicides – specifically among teens – in Colorado Springs, which U.S. News & World Report earlier this year said was the No. 5 place to live in the country.

The magazine reports 13 teenagers have committed suicide in El Paso County so far this year, which is one less than the total number of teen suicides in the county last year.

Even more alarming, Newsweek reports five students out of 1,180 from the Discovery Canyon Campus killed themselves between late 2015 and summer 2016.

“It’s become almost commonplace…because it doesn’t happen once every four years,” high school junior Gracie Packard told Newsweek. “It happens four times a month, sometimes.”

Suicide rates nationally are at a near-30-year high, and the 1,058 people who committed suicide in Colorado last year put the state seventh in the country – up by 2.9 suicides per 100,000 people from 2007.

In 2014, the suicide rate in Colorado Springs was 26.1 per 100,000 people.

The Newsweek report digs through a possible “copycat contagion” in which some teens feel empowered to commit suicide when other friends of classmates do. It noted that three students at Discovery Canyon killed themselves within a two-week period. Two of them knew each other.

It also looks into mental health concerns – children with family members in the military have higher suicide rates, and Colorado Springs is a military hotbed.

And it details how some teens reach out to others, including friends and family, to talk about their suicidal tendencies or attempts. One teen sent text messages and Snapchat messages to friends before she walked into the woods behind her father’s house and shot herself.

Students are joining city and school officials to try and combat the problem through support groups and a screening system meant to identify at-risk teens.

Read the full story in Newsweek. The magazine story comes out Oct. 28.

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