DENVER – Colorado’s program for parents, students and teachers to report potential school threats or violence has seen a substantial increase in reports related to suicide, surpassing bullying as the leading reason students contact the program.
The Safe2Tell program received nearly 2,800 reports related to suicide threats during the 2017-18 school year, increasing from the more than 300 reports received in the 2011-12 school year, The Denver Post reported.
Students can submit reports with Safe2Tell through phone calls, a mobile app or online. The program launched in 2004, created to address school violence in the aftermath of the deadly shooting at Columbine High School.
It received a total of 102 reports that year. Students sent in a total of 16,000 reports during the last school year.
Suicide has become the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24 in Colorado, according to a report by the state Department of Public Health and Environment.
The increase in suicide-related reports reflects the rising number of youth suicides across the country.
More than 430 children between the ages of 10 and 14 died by suicide in the U.S. in 2016, nearly double the number from decade ago, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More than 5,700 people between the ages of 15 and 24 died by suicide during that same year.
The increase of youth suicide cannot be narrowed to a single factor, but feelings of alienation, isolation, rejection and discrimination are common for children and teenagers, and they “really hurt,” said Dr. Justin Ross, a psychologist at UCHealth.
The program was formed in response to school violence, but suicide threats have been the leading reason students file reports since the 2013-14 school year.
Bullying and drugs were also top reported reasons during the last school year.
“Safe2Tell program really has all been about protecting you and your friends,” said John McDonald, executive director of school safety for Jefferson County Public Schools. “So as suicide has become a bigger and bigger issue, our kids are reporting it as a threat to their environment because it is.”