‘River of Lost Souls’

A county in Colorado has nation’s highest rate of suicide among middle-age white women

The Animas River, Colorado (Screenshot Washington Post)

Some 300 years ago, The Animas River in Colorado was known as “El Rio de las Animas Perdidas” — or “The River of Lost Souls.” It was named, according to a feature in The Washington Post, by a band of Spanish conquistadors, who died along the river without receiving their last rites. Today, the area surrounding The Animas River is home to another macabre phenomenon: unprecedented rates of suicide among middle-age, white women.

The county of La Plata in Colorado, home to only 30,000 people, has the nation’s highest rate of suicide among white women aged 45 to 54. Fourteen women have committed suicide there since 2007 and, the Post reports, many of these women found themselves in similar circumstances. They worked physically laborious jobs, suffered from chronic pain, and had been given multiple prescriptions for mental health issues.

Charlotte Sieber, for instance, worked in a clothing store until a series of neck and back injuries left her unable to hold a job. She began taking a number of psychiatric medications to combat depression, but they only worked for a short period of time. When she tried to wean herself off the medications, Sieber suffered from anxiety and insomnia. She hanged herself in her room in 2015.

Women are more likely than men to receive prescriptions for psychiatric conditions; it has been estimated that one in four white women between the ages of 50 and 64 is taking an antidepressant. While there is not data to indicate that these medications might compel a person to suicide, mental health experts are expressing concerns about the over-prescription of psychiatric drugs.

“There’s all kinds of reasons to be depressed, and doctors are not attending to them anymore,” said Joel Paris, a professor of psychiatry at Canada’s McGill University, said in an interview with The Post. “What doctors are being told is, if the patient isn’t getting better, then you need to add another two or three [medications] to the regime.

“The issue that antidepressants help about half the time is absolutely right.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

 

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