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Lakewood teens supporting each other through mental health struggles

Robbie's Hope and student ambassadors at Lakewood High want to cut the teen suicide rate in half by 2028 by offering mental health support to fellow teens.

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Starting the conversation about an often stigmatized topic like mental health and suicide can be difficult, especially for teens. 

A local non-profit called Robbie's Hope wants to change that.

Robbie Eckert was a 15-year-old student at Lakewood High School (LHS) who took his own life in 2018. After his passing, his parents Kari and Jason Eckert, made it their goal to cut suicide rates in half by 2028. 

Credit: Robbie's Hope
Robbie Eckert

Today, Robbie's Hope has student ambassadors in schools across the country. They provide peer-to-peer support and are a constant resource to students who may be struggling with their mental health. 

"I think what hit me the hardest was just the fact that Robbie was a kid just like me," said Marin McKinney, a senior at LHS. 

She joined Robbie's Hope when she was in middle school. 

Credit: KUSA
Marin McKinney, Robbie's Hope

“I joined Robbie’s Hope because I had a personal connection to Robbie," said McKinney. “Once I saw my brother starting to get involved, I was kind of influenced to be a part of it and get involved as well."

Robbie Eckert was a friend to everyone who knew him. No one suspected the pain he was hiding inside.  

"The fact that he was silently struggling and no one knew and then one day he was just gone," said McKinney. "There's probably a lot of teens out there that relate."

Julia Edone is also a senior at LHS. She was inspired to join Robbie's Hope after seeing other students get involved. 

“Seeing how impactful they were and wanting to be a part of that impact," she said.

Credit: KUSA
Julia Edone, Robbie's Hope

Their goal is to be a constant resource for their peers in school. 

"Our motto for 'HOPE' is, 'Hold on pain ends,'" said Edone. “Just letting people know that it’s OK to not be OK.”

Edone also helps post and manage the social media channels for Robbie's Hope. 

"For teens, it's easier to hear important messages like this from your peers and not from adults," she said. 

They're someone students can reach out to when they don't know who to turn to, and where they know they won't be judged. 

"Coming out of a really challenging time in students' lives, coming out of the pandemic, has created new challenges for schools and we need help," said principal Daniel Bock. “Organizations like Robbie’s Hope provides support for both schools, individual students, families, and advocacy at the state level.”

He said they need organizations like Robbie's Hope inside their school. 

“I think it’s fair to say that every school is dealing with mental healthcare crises right now. We’ve certainly had our fair share, both suicide and just students who are hurting," said Bock. “Students speak to each other better than adults speak with kids. So by having students lead the charge it’s been very, very helpful to continue the conversation so adults can step in and provide support as well.”

Bock said Robbie's Hope works in tandem with other mental health partners that provide resources to their school, including Colorado Crisis Services, Jefferson Center for Mental Health, as well as internal counselors and mental healthcare providers. 

“You’re not alone," he said. "People are here to support you and to care for you if you’re going through a rough patch."

Both McKinney and Edone said they've struggled with their mental health before. They want other teens to know they're not alone if they're going through a hard time, too. 

"I just want my peers to know that it's OK to not be OK and everyone goes through hard times and rough days but it always gets better," said McKinney. "You just have to push through."

Robbie's Hope has a handbook written by teens for adults to help parents talk to their kids about anxiety, depression and suicide. You can download the handbook for free on their website.

Resources for teens: 

- National Suicide Prevention Hotline (call 988)
- Teen Line
- NEDA Assessment
- The Trevor Project

Check out more resources on Robbie's Hope website.



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