Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Colorado ranks 9th nationwide in teen suicide

From: 9 News

Statewide, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 60 teenagers died by suicide in 2013 ranking Colorado ninth nationwide. So, Cole and his classmates created a book called "Dear Parents, From Teens" which talks about the stress that can lead to suicide.

Hunter Cole attends Green Mountain High School in Lakewood. He and his classmates are working to tackle suicide, which has been a serious subject at his school over the last 17 years.

"Since 1998, we've had about 10 or 12 (suicides)," Cole said. "It's alarmingly high and it really disappoints me."

"We want to honor the memory of those who have died by making sure it doesn't happen again," Cole said.

With the help of business teacher Van Davis, the students are now working on a second book. It will be a workbook aimed at elementary school kids. Suicide is not mentioned in the workbook, but Davis says the goal is to get young kids to focus on positivity and communication.

"The kids will feel more comfortable approaching their parents about issues that they don't normally want to talk about," Davis said.

Cole knows, because he's been there.

"Sixth grade all the way through eighth grade, I had really struggled with suicide," Cole said.

Cole says he was in a desolate state of mind struggling with his own identity. He says he felt hopeless.

"It was just that feeling of isolation," Cole said. "I felt so different than everyone else, so unconnectable."

"The states with the highest suicide rates in the U.S. are along the Rocky Mountain West region," Jarrod Hindman with the Office of Suicide Prevention said.

Hindman says the frontier mentality of the West often keeps people, especially males, from seeking professional help for mental health issues.

"So, we don't make the connection that this is actually a physical illness that's similar to diabetes or heart disease or cancer," Hindman said.

He says in schools research is showing that certain groups of students are showing troubling symptoms towards suicide.

"Hispanic youth, particularly Hispanic female youth," Hindman said. "The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender youth is an at-risk population."

Jess Stohlmann-Rainey has lived that pain. She grew up struggling as a bisexual teenager dealing with feelings of disapproval and loneliness, she says. She also had an anxiety disorder.

"I attempted suicide at school," Stohlmann-Rainey said.

She was in the bathroom when another student walked in.

"Having someone else interrupt it, sort of was like snapping into reality like, oh, this could be it and I didn't want it to be it," Stohlmann-Rainey said.

At that moment, she says her life and her outlook turned around.

"Someone who I didn't know, who didn't see me, and didn't know what was going on probably saved my life," Stohlmann-Rainey said. "How much more powerful is it when we give people all the tools and they can recognize when something's wrong."

Now, she is the Senior Program Director for the Carson J Spencer Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to suicide prevention. She works with students like Cole to promote programs aimed at saving the life of suicidal teens.

"Doing this work is like a way that I can reach back to that person that I was that was so distressed," Stohlmann-Rainey said.

Cole feels the same way.

"I had seen where I was at that time," Cole said. "I realized that I just, after being through it myself, I couldn't let anybody else go through it again."

They both believe that a "grassroots" effort in the schools can make a big difference in suicide prevention.

"I do often think about, what if things had gone differently? What if somebody hadn't walked in or hadn't stopped?" Stohlmann-Rainey said. "How much I would've missed out on?"

Cole believes that if high school students and adults can work together to create more awareness and more channels of communication for troubled teens, suicide numbers can drop from sixty to zero.

"Suicide can become like small pox or diseases that we have eradicated," Cole said. "It is something we can entirely wipe out of the human race."