COLORADO SPRINGS — As the state of emergency for mental health continues for young people in Colorado, local teens are addressing the alarming trends.
Children’s Hospital Colorado issued the emergency in May 2021. The hospital reports local kids have experienced double the rates of anxiety and depression during the pandemic. The hospital also reported that suicide is the leading cause of death for people age 10 to 24 in Colorado.
Local teens say now, they want to be part of the solution and preventing trends like this, by having those tough conversations about mental health and suicide with others their age.
17-year-old Braeden Turner says many teens go through emotional times, but often times, they don't talk about their feelings.
“A teen can be going through almost anything, you don't really know what they're going through,” said Turner.
For Braeden, suicidal attempts have also hit close to home.
“You can still see just the immense pressure being put on students and how it's translating to suicidal ideations. Just this year at Lewis-Palmer High School, we’ve had three, essentially, attempts at school that have kind of shut down our school for that day,” said Braeden.
For 18-year-old Jana Milner, losing her older brother seven years are was hard.
“I was really struggling. I was super suicidal. I didn't want to be alive anymore,” said Jana. “I still have those really bad days but through therapy and all these different support groups and camps that I've gone to, and I’ve learned to how to deal with those bad days and how to help myself.”
Jana and Braeden are both local teens with their own stories about how they’ve been impacted by mental health or suicides. Now, they're both passionate about ending the stigma of talking about mental health, and helping others their age.
“Hearing a student, my own age, share their experiences, it's much more meaningful, and I think that's what truly impacts students the most,” said Braeden.
The two are part of the teen board with the Suicide Prevention Collaborative of El Paso County. It's a group of local teens who go to different organizations and schools to have those conversations about suicide with others their age.
“We go into schools and teach freshmen through seniors about what to do if you think someone's suicidal, the signs you should be looking for, and how to get help for them,” said Jana.
They also teach other teens their age about all the resources that are available, and are not afraid to talk about the hard conversations with other teens.
“Everybody has mental health,” said Braeden. “It’s something that we need to be comfortable talking about it.”
“I have gotten myself to a place where I'm able to fortunately help others too,” said Jana.
Their work hasn't gone unnoticed. Jana said that after one of their conversations, a mom who lost her son walked up to her, broke down in tears, and thanked Jana sharing her story.
May is also Mental Health Awareness Month, and while mental health is making headlines this month, these teens say mental health should be talked about year-round.
In a statement from Children’s Hospital Colorado: “May is typically a very stressful time for kids and families. This is especially true for high school-aged kids with SATs, final exams, prom, graduation and other milestones. These added stressors often bring an influx of children seeking mental health treatment into our emergency departments. While the dramatic increases in the number of patients we have seen over the last two years has begun to plateau, the numbers have not gone back down to pre-pandemic levels.”
On Tuesday, Children’s Hospital Colorado also invited the community to a virtual open forum on child and youth mental health. Experts talked about:
- How to ask if your child is experiencing suicidal thoughts
- How to help kids address fears associated with violence targeted at schools and youth across the country
- Warning signs of substance use, depression, anxiety and more
- How to navigate your child’s heightened anxiety during final exams and the upcoming summer
- How to address mood disorders and finding treatment
- How to develop a structure or routine for your child’s summer break
A recording of that forum can be watched here.
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