Ask Golden Willow

Building community relationships to prevent suicide at Taos landmark


Dear Ted: With the regular suicides happening at the Río Grande Gorge Bridge, how do elected officials and first responders like law enforcement and ambulance personnel cope with the trauma experienced every time there is a jumper there? I personally think about the incident for weeks afterward. I feel helpless but want to do something about the serious problem at the bridge. Please tell us how to come to grips with this. Thanks, Feeling sad, desperate and helpless.

Dear Sad, Desperate and Helpless: Your question comes at a time when most people choose not to discuss upsetting topics as it is a time where societal pressures ask that you only talk about joyful topics and “enjoy the holidays.” Due to societal stigma, topics such as suicide, depression, or other topics that are emotionally difficult and uncomfortable do not get discussed. Studies show that when media attention is given to a traumatic event such as suicide, there is a potential for increased suicidal behaviors. The brain is always gleaning information so if there is an enormous amount of negative attention placed on a traumatic event, your brain starts to normalize trauma. Too much attention on the negative can increase suicidal thoughts.

Our community continues to increase support and education to allow other avenues when one is feeling helpless and hopeless. We as a community, need to be aware of other choices, rather than believe there are no other options but death. HOT- Help Outreach Taos began over a year ago to help develop a community awareness, prevention and response to suicide. The Gorge Bridge Safety Network was started by Curly O’Connor and continues to promote safety measures to help with suicide prevention in regard to the bridge, but it will take all of our community leaders to keep the pressure on to support funding for crisis prevention programs.

Suicide is an ever-growing problem within our community and country. With an increased awareness of this issue, we may be able to build more and more supports for people in need. Individuals and family members need support after a suicide as do our first responders. These amazing individuals save many lives but also have the difficult and unspoken job of helping with the aftermath of a death.

It is important that service responders have the opportunity for self-care and emotional support as the overwhelming demand for being of service continues to grow. One of the most important ways to prevent suicide is build connections, ask for support and seek out help for yourself or a loved one. We must continue to build more and more supports to help deter the option of suicide, while building a community that supports each other. Remembering that small efforts can bring great changes. The effort to be kind, say good morning, and allow the humanness of others, may be what saves a life without you even knowing it. Thank you for the question. I wish you well. Until next week, take care.

Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Ted Wiard, LPCC, CGC, Founder of Golden Willow Retreat at (575) 776-2024 or

This column seeks to educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat and they will be answered privately to you and possibly as a future article for others. Please list a first name that grants permission for printing.