DENVER — Colorado has the highest rate of teen suicide in the country.
To combat it, the Colorado Attorney General, mental health organizations, filmmakers, families and teenagers all came together Tuesday to launch a new awareness campaign at the Ralph L. Carr Judicial Building in Denver.
Teens directly impacted by suicide or mental health struggles appear in public service announcements that will begin airing through social media. The goal is to support teen-to-teen conversations, raise awareness about youth suicide and highlight resources available for support.
Student speakers also shared their stories with the group.
“I didn’t know that it was OK not to be OK,” said Lily Osborne, a student at Cherry Creek High School. She says her school was shaken earlier this year when fellow student Jack Padilla died by suicide. “It shattered everyone’s world,” she said.
It also inspired the students to speak out about their own mental health struggles, hoping to shed the stigma.
That meant a lot to Jack’s dad, Rick Padilla, who also came to support the launch of the new campaign.
“They are the voice of Jack, Nick Bales, Robbie Eckert and all the other kids that have died by suicide. They are their voice, and it makes me feel wonderful,” Rick Padilla said.
He wasn’t the only grieving parent in the room. Maria Bales lost her son, Nick, in 2018. He was a senior at Arapahoe High School.
“We knew Nick suffered. We had no idea how deep it was,” Maria Bales said.
She is glad to support this new awareness campaign, and hopes it will make a difference for other families.
“Talk to your kids. Teens, talk to your parents. Don’t be afraid. It’ OK. It’s just like having a cavity. You go out and you get treatment for it, and you seek the help you need,” Bales said.
The Teens2Teens campaign can be found on YouTube and Instagram.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, the following are some resources that may help:
Colorado Crisis Services Hotline (1-844-493-8255): If you are in crisis or need help dealing with one, call 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255 to speak to a trained professional. When calling Colorado Crisis Services, you will be connected to a crisis counselor or trained professional with a master’s or doctoral degree.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255): Speak with someone who will provide free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To learn how to help someone in crisis, call the same number.
The Trevor Project (1-866-488-7386): A 24/7 resource for LGBT youth struggling with a crisis or suicidal thoughts. The line is staffed by trained counselors.