About a third of teenagers across Colorado are experiencing prolonged feelings of sadness or hopelessness, according to state data.
The 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey found 31.2 percent of high school students in Southwest Colorado reported feeling sad or hopeless for two weeks or more. About the same percentage of students reported feelings of sadness or hopelessness across the state, according to the data. Region 9 includes Montezuma, Dolores, La Plata, Archuleta and San Juan counties.
Across Colorado and Southwest Colorado, about 17 percent of students reported considering suicide, according to the data.
While rates seem high, teenagers in Colorado are experiencing thoughts of depression and suicide at similar rates to their peers nationally, said Lauren Cikara, who presented the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey data in November.
The state survey data provide a broader look at some of the mental health concerns identified by a recent report released by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, which was based on interviews and focus groups. However, the AG’s report had low participation from Bayfield and Ignacio representatives.
The Healthy Kids Survey gathered input from high school and middle school students in every district.
Durango School District 9-R plans to examine results of the survey this month to better understand students and the challenges they face, said Andy Burns, deputy superintendent.
Recognizing Opportunities Around Resiliency (ROAR), a new coalition focused on promoting healthy behavior among teens, will also rely on data from both reports to guide its work, said Breeah Kinsella, director of Celebrating Healthy Communities, a nonprofit.
Celebrating Healthy Communities and Communities That Care, a San Juan Basin Public Health organization, recently merged to form ROAR. Both organizations were focused on preventing risky behavior among teens, such as alcohol and drug use, as well as suicide.
As a result of the merger, ROAR has 11 staff members, including interns and AmeriCorps members to help with the coalition’s goals, said Tirzah Camacho, co-facilitator of ROAR.
The coalition is focused on reducing deaths by suicide, decreasing vaping and introducing innovative ways to prevent drunken driving, among other goals.
“Our hope is that ROAR will essentially become the household name where our community knows that they can reach out to support all things healthy, and all things preventive,” she said.