DENVER (KDVR) — At the Crown Hill Cemetery in Wheat Ridge, chimes blow in a nearby pine tree, marking the final resting spot of Dominic Vigil.
The 13-year-old had been on summer break for just two days when he died by suicide in early June.
“Coming here, it’s devastating knowing that he’s lying in the ground and no longer with me,” said his mother, Crystal Crewse. “Dominic was such a bright, bright student and had such a bright future, and now it’s gone because he was getting bullied.”
Crewse said she knew Dominic was being bullied in school and believes it likely played a role in his death.
“Parents, please teach your kids to stop bullying,” Crewse said. “These kids are 13 and younger, and they’re taking their lives because they can’t handle it no more.”
Youth suicide more than doubles in Colorado
Since 2010, state records show youth suicides have been increasing dramatically, more than doubling from 40 in 2010 to 87 suicides in 2020.
Those numbers have stabilized in the past two years, with 72 deaths in 2021, and 56 in 2022, but youth social workers believe the problem will continue to get worse.
“What I’m noticing more now in kids is depression, anxiety, reports of being bullied,” said Joanna Ioannides, a youth therapist. “We’re seeing a lot of kids that aren’t communicating kindly with their peers.”
Ioannides said she’s seen an increase in young patients experiencing suicidal thoughts post-pandemic and said she’s often the first person the child has told. She said that means parents need to pay attention to warning signs, like changes in attitude or behavior.
“If you see their behavior change, that’s a good time to seek help and to ask how they’ve been feeling,” she said.
In May, the state extended a program called I Matter, which provides up to six free counseling sessions for anyone under 18.
“Being aware of it, I think, is our first step,” Ioannides said.
A proper headstone for a child
Crewse said her son never disclosed his suicidal thoughts to her.
“I wish I would have asked more questions,” she said.
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is the national free support line available any time, any day by calling 988. Also, Colorado Crisis Services provides free, confidential and immediate support from trained professionals at any time of any day; call 844-493-TALK (8255) or text “TALK” to 38255.