COLORADO, USA — Jack Padilla was just 15 years old.
The freshman at Cherry Creek High School ended his own life one year ago Friday.
In the past three years, the suicide rate for teens has gone up nearly 60%. His parents have made it their mission to save other kids in Colorado and improve access to mental health resources.
"Every day since then it's almost minute by minute you feel like you've gone back a year," said Rick Padilla, Jack Padilla's dad. "This devastates a family, it devastates a community."
Gov. Jared Polis on Friday declared Feb.14 Jack Padilla day. A ceremony was held at the state capitol and the proclamation was read on the floor of the House of Representatives.
"It was really inspiring to see that today and I think it helped make this day a little easier for all of us," said John Padilla, Jack Padilla's brother. "It takes a special person to have a day named after you, especially in the state of Colorado."
One year ago, Jack Padilla's family never thought they'd be at the state capitol. Surrounded by dozens of Jack Padilla's friends from school, the Padillas celebrated Jack Padilla's life and fought for access to mental health resources for teens so no family ever has to go through the same pain they have experienced.
"I don't think we'll ever totally know why, except that he was 15 and felt like he had no friends. He had other kids literally snapchatting him and telling him to go kill himself," said Jack Padilla's mother Jeanine Padilla. "We saw that he was starting to struggle and we talked with him a lot about that. We did try and get him help. Sometimes places were full and didn't have a bed. Sometimes he'd say he wasn't suicidal after he had just told me that he was and the hospital would let him go. I was always afraid I'd never get him back. It was shocking, but we knew that he was suicidal, but still, unable to stop it from happening."
Rick Padilla now works as the Suicide Prevention Administrator within the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment, devoting his life to helping end teen suicide.
"We did everything we could to help Jack. Jack did everything he could," said Rick Padilla. "The loss of a child is one thing. The loss of a child by suicide brings a whole different dimension to it."
SUICIDE & MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential support for those in crisis 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.
There are four ways to get confidential and immediate help: by phone at 1-844-493-8255, over text message (text the word “TALK” to 38255), via an online chat service, or at walk-in centers throughout metro Denver, northern, the southeast region and the western slope. Many of these services are available 24/7.
Trained counselors are available to help with relationship problems, depression, bullying, stress, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, family crisis and more.
This advocacy organization hosts a variety of online mental health screening in both English and Spanish, a mental health toolkit for schools, a page dedicated to the latest mental health research, as well as a variety of events throughout the year.
Using this link, you can find the community mental health center nearest to you. All of the centers accept Medicaid and most have sliding payment options for those who do not have insurance.
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