In New Mexico, the journalism community — as well as friends and the listening public — are mourning the death of KUNM interim news director, Hannah Colton.
An SEJ member, Colton covered not only environmental issues, but also mental health, homelessness, COVID-19, elections, politics and protests that rocked the state over the past few years. Described by friends and colleagues alike as fearless, compassionate and kind, Colton’s death by suicide this month at the age of 29 is an incalculable loss to the community.
In a memorial posted at KUNM.org, Colton’s friend and fellow reporter Marisa Demarco wrote, “She well-understood the urgency of this moment, and she gave it her whole heart, working around the clock to cover equity and education, the dangers of the virus for people who are incarcerated, protests and the pandemic’s impacts on people without shelter.”
And in the Daily Lobo, the student newspaper of the University of New Mexico, Andrew Gunn wrote,
"Colton's own understanding of trauma and the community's response to injustice rang especially true in her writing, with her prose reflecting immeasurable creativity and wit.
"In April 2019, Colton wrote a story for KUNM entitled "Hands-On Therapy Helps Students Rebuild Self-Esteem After Trauma," in which she spoke passionately about the necessity for healing and the value of human connection in a polarized society.
"'The older I get and more work I do, the more convinced I am that most or all of us are traumatized to some degree by this messed up, unjust, patriarchal, white supremacist society,' Colton wrote. 'Healing is possible, but we cannot heal alone.'"
Quoted in a story in the Albuquerque Journal, Colton’s mother Kathy noted that Hannah “struggled with depression,” and though counseling and medication helped, “she was also working extremely long hours out of her home and felt isolated because of the pandemic.”
Hannah was dedicated to her community, as well as to journalism and storytelling. She will be missed beyond measure.
For anyone struggling, there are resources available, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) and the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma. The latter's website includes various resources and tools for journalists and editors who are seeking information about trauma, self-care and even a guide for editors and news managers working with freelancers exposed to trauma.