Youth are grieving. With the death of relatives, friends — and above all, expectations — teens are feeling the loss brought by the pandemic. Without appropriate support systems, our youth are perpetually remaining in crisis.
I have experienced first-hand the strain on our community’s mental health. Ranging from addiction to suicide attempts to eating disorders, my peers at Cherry Creek High School are in a crucial state of flux. My counselors are overwhelmed, and my teachers are in tears.
I am not immune to struggle. Following a suicide attempt in November 2020, I spent three days in a behavioral health facility.
Witnessing first-hand the strain on our hospital services, I learned that teens need to have preventative resources to handle stress before they need emergency care. Even more, I realized that, as much as youth call for additional mental-health resources, often we just don’t know where to find them.
Colorado Crisis Services offers free, 24/7 support by call or text for Coloradans regarding depression, anxiety, relationships, addiction, and identity. When a youth calls the hotline, they are connected to a compassionate, trained counselor for immediate problem solving.
Most importantly, callers receive follow-up, to ensure long-term stability. Recently, Colorado Crisis Services introduced a non-emergency peer-support option, creating an additional way to find help. Colorado Crisis Services, accessible statewide in over 200 languages, is how we can draw youth out of our painful fog.
However, the service only helps when we know how to call.
When asking my peers about Colorado Crisis Services, they return blank stares. In the summer of 2020, I set out with my fellow Colorado Youth Advisory Council member Taleen Sample, a senior at Kent Denver School, to ensure every Colorado youth knows about this critical resource. Reaching into our backpacks, we found a simple solution: school IDs.
I use my student ID every day. From buying lunch to checking out books, my ID card is an educational passport. Safe2Tell, a hotline designed to receive tips regarding threats to school safety, is printed on the backside of my ID card. Colorado Crisis Services needs to share that valuable space.
To put Colorado Crisis Services on our IDs, Taleen and I turned to our role on the Colorado Youth Advisory Council. Created by legislation in 2008, the council is charged with examining, evaluating, and discussing the issues affecting Colorado youth with policymakers.
A decade later, an interim committee was added to directly recommend the legislation youth need. To add Colorado Crisis Services to our school IDs, Taleen and I proposed what is now HB22-1052: Promoting Crisis Services To Students.
Sponsored by Rep. Barbara McLachlan, Minority Leader Hugh McKean, Sen. Kevin Priola and Sen. Dominick Moreno, the legislation will, if passed, increase awareness of the Colorado Crisis Services hotline, providing an equitable baseline option of mental health support for every youth across Colorado, while reducing the heightened stress placed on teachers and other school personnel surrounding students struggling with mental health.
According to the 2019 Colorado Health Access Survey, two-thirds of Colorado schools do not have adequate counselors. Many of these schools are concentrated in rural areas. We hope the knowledge of the Crisis Services line can provide a baseline of support for these rural communities.
We recognize that capacity is a primary issue in schools regarding mental health. Crisis situations happen every single day. Our bill hopes to ensure students are aware of 24/7 support that may divert some stress from under-staffed school systems while also publicizing an option for youth who may not feel comfortable approaching school staff.
We also note that, statistically, most youth experience suicidal ideation outside of school hours. Colorado Crisis Services gives an alternative support system to students all day, every day. We hope that increased awareness of this resource will prevent suicide.
When I was in the hospital, I used broken crayons and a standard-issue journal to jot down the key points of our policy: this bill was truly born from the desire to help other youth. Bringing our young adults out of the pandemic relies on listening to them.
We are calling on our Colorado legislators to empower us in uplifting our peers and to pass HB22-1052: Promoting Crisis Services To Students.
Aimee Resnick, of Centennial, represents State Senate District 27 on the Colorado Youth Advisory Council. She also serves on the Colorado Suicide Prevention Commission as the co-chair of the Youth-Specific Initatives Workgroup.
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