Animas High School seniors will unveil their efforts to promote mental health and suicide prevention Monday at a Community of Resilience event.
The students developed the event, as well as a film, web project and magazine, to help residents learn about resiliency and mental health resources in the community.
The work is the culmination of a semester-long focus on sustainable development, which examines the environmental, economic, cultural and social factors that contribute to problems such as poor mental health.
The students specifically want to address the high suicide rate in La Plata County.
La Plata County’s suicide rate was 34 deaths per 100,000 people in 2017, according to San Juan Basin Public Health. The average suicide rate nationwide is about 13 deaths per 100,000, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Resiliency can be a nebulous idea. But the students hope to help attendees understand that while they may be going through hard times, they can rise out of turmoil and learn from their struggles, said Animas High School senior Charlie Stein.
“Everyone internally has resiliency,” he said.
Even the effects of toxic stress over a long period of time, stemming from trauma like abuse, can be reversed, said Alma Wolf, who authored an article about resilience for the class’s magazine.
“Even one supportive adult in a child’s life can make an enormous difference,” she said.
The students have invited about 15 community organizations that will be tabling at the event to help attendees learn about the mental health resources available in the community.
The event will also feature two keynote speakers: Kate Jones, Thriving Youth Programs supervisor with San Juan Basin Public Health, who will highlight community prevention efforts; and Doty Shepard with Resilient Colorado, a nonprofit.
The new nonprofit is focused on training individuals to deal with trauma in their lives and educating organizations and agencies, such as schools, how to respond to traumatized people.
Shepard plans to feature how caregivers can build resiliency in teens and how attendees can build resiliency in one another.
The event will also feature two seminars. One will allow attendees to share concerns about mental health in the community and brainstorm solutions. The second a “connection circle” is meant to help build relationships, Stein said.