Mental Health

Courtesy of Hope4_2Morrow

A Colorado-based suicide awareness organization has released their first public service announcement aimed at stopping teen suicides.

Matt Bloom/KUNC

The casting call’s location wasn’t glamorous but it would do the job.

Sporting an oversized Bronco’s jersey, Shannon Hawley passed out consent forms to a group of a dozen students at a McDonald’s in Greeley. The ad he’d posted on Facebook about a week before had paid off.

“Weld County, Colorado,” the post read. “I am looking for teenage boys and girls to be part of a very powerful social media commercial addressing suicide prevention.”

It went on to list the casting call’s time, date and location.

Matt Bloom/KUNC

As students across the state head into another school year, safety and security remain top priorities for educators. Another challenge is preventing teen suicides.

Courtesy of Mental Health Matters Larimer County

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience some form of mental illness and 20 percent of children between the ages of 13-18 live with a mental health condition. In Larimer County, 83 people died from suicide in 2016 according to the county coroner’s office.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

The House just passed a bill to create a 9-1-1 type service nationwide for suicide prevention. This change could be especially important for our region, which has some of the highest suicide rates in the country.

Matt Bloom/KUNC

A chorus of voices fills a Denver call center, coming from the rows of soldier-like operators in cubicles.

“Colorado support line. This is Caroline,” a female operator says. “Who am I speaking with?”

The caller’s words are muffled, inaudible to anyone but the operator. In the next cubicle, a male operator is finishing his conversation.

Stephanie Daniel / KUNC

Police officer Tash Petsas and clinician Alan Marschke patrol the streets of Longmont, waiting for another call from dispatch about a guy named John. They have already responded to two John calls, but he was not arrested because he wasn't doing anything illegal. John was just hanging around downtown acting erratic.

After their last interaction, John left the scene, leaving his possessions near a dumpster in a parking lot.

"These are those tough cases where Alan and I have conversations," said Petsas, a 15-year veteran with the police department. "You know, right now he's littering with that mess he left. But write him a ticket, it's not going to solve the problem. This is where we have to start getting creative, about how are we going to get him engaged and how are we going to get him help."

Stephanie Daniel / KUNC

Esperanza Montelongo attached a biometric sensor to her ear, stood in front of a computer screen and started breathing. With each inhale and exhale, a small ball on the screen moved up and down, mimicking her breaths.

“It just keeps going and going and when this fills up, if it’s all green, that means your heart is calm and you’re breathing right,” she said.

Matt Bloom

At a public health meeting in Eagle County, where frustrated mothers sat next to uniformed sheriff’s deputies and tired doctors, Chris Lindley, the county’s public health director, tried to wrap his head around how things could have gotten so bad.

“I can promise you nobody in this room can tell the rest of us all the mental health services, systems, how someone gets into them and how they all work together,” he said. “Can anybody describe that?”


Lindley paused before answering his question.

“No way.”

Stacy Nick / KUNC

For Fort Collins artist Jennifer Ivanovic, the inspiration for her latest work has been a long-time coming.

More than 30 years ago, while Ivanovic was in high school, a friend killed himself by jumping off of a parking garage.

“And of course, being high school, there’s a lot of innuendos and ‘Was he pushed?’ and all this,” she said. “Until his parents actually wanted to put all the rumors to rest and told us all that he had bipolar disorder.”