COLORADO COLLEGE — A movement for better mental health has sparked at Colorado College (CC), after the deaths of three students.
"How much do we have to lose before more people start to have this conversation?" asked Veronica Gibson, a junior at CC who is among those advocating for changes on campus.
News5 confirmed two of the student deaths in 2022 occurred on campus and were suicides, the third happened off campus and the cause of death is yet to be released.
Wade Noelke, also a junior at CC, says the administration sent emails after each student's death, but many students did not feel enough was done to allow the campus to properly grieve.
In copies of the three emails obtained by News5, each email began relatively the same, stating in part, "It is with deep sadness that we share this tragic news."
"We feel that like there needs to be better responses to it overall, more considerate of the students and of those who passed away," said Noelke.
Noelke said a day off of classes for students to cope and a place for them to grieve could have been helpful.
Multiple social media pages have been created as part of the protest, including an Instagram page, @ccinstitutionalchangenow.
The page includes a post with campus statistics, including one which says 16% of CC students have had suicidal thoughts within the last 12 months.
Another post depicts an email in which members of the student body requested "systemic policy change".
Anna-Grace Keller, a sophomore, says most of the students spearheading the movement are not able to speak publicly about it to news outlets.
"Most of the people who are disproportionately affected by the issues here at CC are bipoc students, queer students, trans students," said Keller, explaining that some of the student may not have the time or emotional bandwidth to speak publicly.
She continued to say, "Due to the lack of diversity and community at our school, it can be difficult for these students to sometimes cope with these issues."
"Bipoc" stands for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC).
"I struggle with it and it's definitely a lot, and I have to lean on community and other bipoc students because some of my white classmates may not understand the struggle that I'm going through," said Michael Richardson, a sophomore.
CC does offer mental health resources through the Health and Wellbeing center, including counseling, a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), referrals to off-campus services, medication prescribing and monitoring, medication assessments, assessments for mental health issues, and assessments for alcohol and drug issues.
Heather Horton, the Senior Director of Student Health and Wellbeing, says the center initially started as a result of student advocacy at CC.
"It's one of the things that I have really enjoyed about being an employee at Colorado College, is that student activism has actually resulted in a lot of different changes," said Horton.
Gibson says she and some of her friends who attend colleges in other part of the country all agreed that mental health is an issue on each of their campuses at the moment.
"Those particular struggles around suicidality and things like that, that we've seen increased rates in the U.S. and globally and certain college campuses are one of those places, in terms of just the populations that are at risk," said Horton.
A meeting happened on Tuesday afternoon between staff members and concerned students. One student told News5 the meeting was "very validating and heartwarming and empowering".
An email obtained by News5 from Colorado College to the students on Monday read in part:
We hear you and see you. Like many other schools, we are dealing with a national mental health crisis, and that crisis is very real and present for us here on the Colorado College campus. We also recognize that the Block Plan can create some different stressors on our students than those faced by students at semester schools.
Watch KOAA News5 on your time, anytime with our free streaming app available for your Roku, FireTV, AppleTV and Android TV. Just search KOAA News5, download and start watching.