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Colorado Springs students, teachers trained to offer support

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This story is part of Lifelines, a Rocky Mountain PBS project focused on youth suicide prevention. This is one segment in a series of stories focused on how communities have responded after experiencing high rates of youth suicide. Find the full Learning Through Loss story here.

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If you have an immediate mental health crisis, please call Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-8255 or text TALK to 38255. Or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also chat with the Lifeline.

Insight with John Ferrugia

Colorado Springs students, teachers trained to offer support


Students and teachers are important support systems for young people at risk.

As Colorado Springs works to continue to reduce its youth suicide rate, the community realizes that both trusted adults and peers are key players in prevention efforts.

The community is placing emphasis on training adults who work with young people on the signs they may be struggling, and how to intervene.

In September, David Galvan of Education for a Lifetime trained the staff at a Colorado Springs charter school on Youth Mental Health First Aid. A student there died by suicide in August.

Recognizing that other young people may be at heightened risk after a classmate’s death, such trainings are a common strategy in what as known as postvention -- the response after someone has died by suicide.

“I believe that anybody that works with youth across the board should be trained in youth mental health first aid. It doesn’t matter if you’re a youth pastor, a teacher, a coach, a parent.. It should be across the board,” Galvan said.

Students are also being trained to be peer leaders and help their classmates stay safe.

The school year after the Colorado Springs youth suicide cluster began, Discovery Canyon Campus launched a program called Sources of Strength.

Sources of Strength is a Colorado-based program that has been implemented in many states across the country. The state of Colorado has supported dozens of schools around the state in implementing the program.

The model trains school staff to be “trusted adults,” and students to help support each other and steer each other to people who can help. Sienna Adams decided to join.

“I have had a lot of very long conversations about why people should stay, and who they can talk to. Where are your counselors? Who are the cool teachers in the school that are willing to talk about it?” said Adams.

Adams says the school, and the Sources of Strength program, made many efforts to create activities that would give students opportunities to connect with each other and find outlets to reduce their stress.

Resources: Let’s Talk Colorado - What to say when someone needs help

And schools believe it is working. Martha Hinson, the health and wellness coordinator for Academy District 20, said the district can see the results as it screens more and more students for suicide risk every year.

“We’re seeing our hospitalizations go down. Which means we’re identifying more kids early,” Hinson said.

NEXT SEGMENT:Colorado schools learn from comprehensive suicide prevention model developed in California