COLORADO, USA — Suicide is a leading cause of death for kids and teens in Colorado. The problem is increasing as treatment center beds in the state are decreasing.
It's the first day of September and the first day of Suicide Prevention Awareness month.
“I think a lot of adults are very aware that youth mental health is a crisis and that suicide is a problem in our state but they never think that it could be their child," said Kari Eckert, executive director of Robbie's Hope. "Please don’t be naïve like that. Take the time to ask your child if they’re really ok.”
No mom or dad ever wants to see their child struggle. Sometimes a parent may see their kid excelling when they're actually silently suffering.
"Robbie looked very healthy on the outside. He looked like he was thriving," said Eckert. "Robbie was very empathetic. He smiled a ton. He was so caring. He was fun. He lit up a room, but yet was struggling."
In 2018, Eckert lost her son to suicide when he was 15-years-old. He was a sophomore at Lakewood High School.
"I remember asking the coroner, 'How often do you see this?' and he said, 'More often than you want to know,' and I wanted to know right away," she said.
Soon after their son's death, Kari and her husband decided to create Robbie's Hope.
“We have to bring youth’s voice to the table, that’s what Robbie’s Hope is about, and start listening to the kids," said Eckert. "Hold on, pain ends."
In the last four years, the organization has gone national.
"This isn't just about awareness anymore, that this is about creating solutions," she said.
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness month, but Kari said mental health is something that needs more attention than just one month out of the year.
"This is a program of kids across the country that are trying to bring tools and resources to their communities," she said.
Their student ambassador program now has 3,000 youth ambassadors in every state. Their goal is to let people know, it's ok to not be ok.
"Instead of waiting for kids to be in crisis, making conversations that are crucial, a normal part of our daily lives between adults and young people," said Eckert.
Conversations she said requires parents to listen to their child twice as much as they talk.
"They also don't want to hear, 'Oh, well when I was a teenager, this is what I did,'" said Eckert. "Letting the person that you're sitting with know that you are there and that their feelings are okay."
Robbie's Hope has a series of handbooks 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)
Check out more resources on the Robbie's Hope website.
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