Cherry Creek High School rallies resources for community after recent student suicides

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. — Cherry Creek High School principal Ryan Silva reached out to community members on Friday to offer mental health support to students after three suicides occurred within the community during the past two months.

An email addressed to CCHS states that mental health support is available for students until 6 p.m. on Friday and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The Cherry Creek School District has reported two students deaths at CCHS.  Additionally, a student at St. Mary's Academy -- a private school in Cherry Hills Village -- also killed herself last week. According to the district, that student attended Cherry Creek schools for most of her life.

"Our hearts are heavy as we struggle with this loss, so soon after the loss, our school suffered in February. It is important that we come together as a community and support each other during this difficult and heartbreaking time," principal Silva said in an email to the CCHS community.

Teenage suicide in Colorado occurs at nearly twice the national average.

Psychologists don't know why, but they do know warning signs of depression and potentially suicidal thoughts that parents should look out for.

"The number one warning sign is usually depression," said Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, a Denver psychologist. " And so symptoms of depression can look like irritability. They kind of look like sadness. It usually looks a real change in behavior."

Dr. Ziegler said parents should talk with teens about this sensitive subject and be non-judgmental. Parents can also get insight into their teens' feelings by keeping an eye on their social media accounts.

Meanwhile, some teenagers are trying to help their peers.

This includes Amelia Federico, who's part of Students for Education Reform, a group that's pushing for more mental health professionals to be in schools.

"I know for me, it’s definitely easier to open up to somebody at school," said Federico, a Denver high school student. "Sometimes home isn't the best place."

Federico said she wished parents and adults understood that being a teenager today is more difficult than it was decades ago. She said the pressure with preparing for college is greater. Plus, teenagers have jobs, play sports and have to deal with social media.

"To some, it can potentially ruin your life," Federico said. "And to some, it gets very hard to enjoy life. When you don’t have an outlet, you can’t function and you start to break down."

Federico wants teenagers who make be struggling to know one thing about asking for help: "It’s about making it okay. It's okay that you're not okay. Because we have these supports here."

Suicide Prevention: Risks, tips for parents and educators

Suicide Warning Signs:

Many suicidal youths demonstrate observable behaviors that signal their suicidal thinking.  These include:

  • Suicidal threats in the form of direct and indirect statements.
  • Suicide notes and plans.
  • Prior suicidal behavior.
  • Making final arrangements (e.g., making funeral arrangements, writing a will, giving away prized possessions).
  • Preoccupation with death.
  • Changes in behavior, appearance, thoughts and/or feelings.

Important resources available for CCHS students: 

Counseling and Mental Health: 720-554-2250 or 720-554-2260

Main office: 720-554-2281

Colorado Crisis Services: 1-844-493-8255

Safe2Tell: 1-877-542-7233

Medical Center of Aurora Behavioral Health: 303-360-3650

Aurora Mental Health: 303-617-2300

All Health: 303-730-8858

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