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Housing and food assistance programs are key parts of suicide prevention efforts

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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.

PREVIOUS SEGMENT:Communities called to action after youth suicide clusters

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

Housing and food assistance in tough times can help prevent


Resources to help people make ends meet can help reduce suicide risk.

Experts in the field of suicide prevention say youth who are exposed to loss like like suicide of a classmate or friend can be at a higher risk for becoming suicidal.

Colorado Springs teen Phoenix has experienced that firsthand after losing a classmate and two close friends to suicide.

I was already at a pretty high risk but losing my friends put me at a higher risk. Before I lost them, I had already been having suicidal idealizations... but losing them made me want to act on my plans,” said Phoenix.

“The courage that’s needed is not the courage to die. It’s a courage to keep living,” Phoenix said.

Phoenix is 18 and identifies as non-binary, and we agreed not to use their real name for this story. They said they survived multiple suicide attempts after experiencing abuse, for which they are in trauma-informed therapy.

We met Phoenix at The Place, which provides shelter and assistance to youth experiencing homelessness in Colorado Springs. There is a growing understanding that programs like The Place are key pieces of the suicide prevention effort.

The Colorado National Collaborative for Suicide Prevention, a public health partnership with local, state and national organizations, is working toward a goal of reducing Colorado’s suicide rate by 20%. One of the six strategies to achieving that is increasing economic stability.

Resources:Onward Colorado - Search for free or reduced cost services like medical care, food, job training, and more.

“If you break it down to the very basic needs of humans… so food stability, housing stability. If I don't have those things, I really can't focus on anything else,” said Cassandra Walton, who serves as vice chair of El Paso County’s arm of that collaborative. “What we believe is that if we can help people have economic stability, they're going to be more likely to be able to manage their mental health.”

Other efforts in the community address food insecurity, like Colorado Springs Food Rescue. Colorado’s Blueprint to End Hunger says food security is linked to lower rates of adolescent suicide.

These efforts are prioritized at the state level as well.

“We want to be really thinking about Colorado broadly and make sure that we're all working together to support everyone regarding mental health, regarding various traumas, regarding economic stability, food, housing, transportation, discrimination, all of these factors together,” said Lena Heilmann of the Colorado Office of Suicide Prevention. “And really think as broadly and comprehensively about, how do we make life worth living?”

Resources:Inside Out Youth Services for LGBTQ+ youth in Colorado Springs

Resources:The Trevor Project supports LGBTQ+ youth with a 24/7 hotline at 1-866-488-7386.

With help from The Place, Phoenix says they are on the road to recovery.

“I’ve grown quite a lot and I'm finally becoming my own person and becoming the person that I want to be,” Phoenix said.

NEXT SEGMENT: Colorado Springs students, teachers trained to offer support