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Opinion In the rural West, ‘self-reliance’ can take a heavy toll on mental health

Rural suicide rates increased 48 percent between 2000 and 2018, according to the CDC. Men in rural areas are 40 percent more likely than their urban counterparts to end their lives. Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Wyoming have the seven highest suicide rates in the country. ‘I can do it on my own. I don’t need help.’ People see it as a sign of weakness to reach out for help,” said Lee Halberg, until recently the director of the Mancos Public Library in Manco, Colo. Last summer, he was in his office when 15-year-old Dustin Ford and a young woman walked past the small brick building and toward the nearby river.

In Montezuma County, public and private agencies pooled resources to form the Community Intervention Program. Most involve mental health, drug or alcohol addiction, homelessness or personal crisis, spokeswoman says. CIP responded to nearly 100 calls in the first two months of the program's two-month run. When summer visitors pour into this region, I wonder if they sense the quiet desolation that some of us must guard against.