How COVID-19 has impacted teens in El Paso County

How COVID-19 has impacted teens in El Paso County
Posted at 8:42 PM, Feb 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-09 13:04:11-05

EL PASO COUNTY — On October 28, 2015, Abella Parkins lost her mother to suicide.

It was an unexpected event, that at the time 10-year-old Abella struggled to comprehend.

"Before this all happened I was not good with change," said Abella.

Abella Parkins shares her story of losing her mother to suicide at a young age
Abella Parkins (top right) and her mother (bottom right)

Abella is a sophomore at Widefield High School. She says she has witnessed her friends and classmates struggle over the last year.

"I know a lot of people are struggling, and like I myself, I'm struggling, and a lot of my friends are too," said Abella.

When Abella's mother passed, she had to navigate to a new normal, and now she is using those lessons she learned to help her peers deal with the new normal of the pandemic.

Over the last year, Abella got involved with Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention.

"I did like a little panel, questionnaire with a whole bunch of other people just talking about like mental health awareness and like how it's affecting teenagers," said Abella.

It's a time that she can share her story with others, so they don't feel alone.

"All the teens out there just know that you are not the only ones going through it and like everyone is, and there are people that you can talk to about it," said Abella.

According to Heather Pelser, El Paso County Suicide Prevention Coordinator, in 2019 there were nine deaths by youth suicide in El Paso County, and in 2020 there fifteen.

The number almost doubled.

"As a state, even as a county, suicide numbers did not rise in 2020, with the exception of this youth rate in El Paso County," said Pelser.

Suicide Rate in El Paso County
El Paso County Youth Suicide Rate from 2019 to 2020

Pelser urges parents to not only "check in" with their kids, "so instead of saying how are you, and somebody saying I'm good or I'm fine," but to really engage and get down to their level.

"Saying, how are you today? Gosh, my stress level has been really high lately, how's yours been? So really being intentional about those questions," said Pelser.

This way, kids won't feel as alone and isolated in their own worlds.

"It's normal right now to be scared and have anxiety and depression. It's okay that we're all in the same boat together," said Pelser.

For those who may not feel comfortable reaching out to their parents, there are other options.

"I usually just talk to my friends about it and that's like my outlet, because it makes me feel better just like getting it all off my chest," said Abella.

Abella Parkins shares her story of losing her mother to suicide at a young age
Abella Parkins, far right, and friends

Friends, trusted adults, teachers...

"We all need to stay connected and know we're not alone going through this," said Tricia Owen, school social worker.

Owen says it's been hard witnessing teens struggle with the change.

"I don't think they've actually accepted it as normal, because it's been so hard, they're so isolated. Their brain is not fully developed, they don't have the skills to deal with all what's going on in the world, their own life," said Owen.

Abella agrees, and she wants teens her age to know it's okay to reach out for help.

"There's no reason to be embarrassed about it, it's not something that you should really hide," said Abella.

Trying to find the normal in the not so normal.

Colorado Crisis Services (Any crisis ) (24 hour hotline) (844) 493–TALK (8255)Or text “TALK” to 38255

Alcoholics Anonymous (719) 573-5020

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault (TESSA) (719) 633-3819

Aspen Pointe Lighthouse(719) 572-6340

Self-Injury Hotline (800) DON’T CUT(800) 366-8288)

Suicide Prevention (National)(800) 273-TALK (8255)

National Veterans Crisis Line(800) 273-8255 /press 1

Vets 4 Warriors(answered 24/7 by veterans)(855) 838-8255

Safe2Tell(877) 542-SAFE (7233)

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