Bullying and feelings of isolation can follow teenagers home from school through social media and students across La Plata County want that to end.
“Some kids experience (post-traumatic stress disorder) from school because they don’t get what’s called mental rest. ... They are in a constant state of experiencing trauma,” said Rosie Gurnee, a freshman at Animas High School.
Animas High School students are working with their peers from Durango High School, Ignacio and Bayfield to organize The Voice of a Generation: Youth Resource Spotlight Event to help teenagers meet others with similar interests, join new clubs and break away from feelings of isolation.
The teens were inspired to hold the event because they felt left out of the conversation about how the community should address teen suicide and depression. La Plata County has one of the highest rates of teen suicides in Colorado.
“We all felt that the teen voice wasn’t heard. ... We have solutions to this,” Animas High School sophomore Kealey Meyer said.
The event will feature skateboarding, slacklining, live art, spoken-word performances, games and live music, among other activities. Teens can also meet pets available for adoption and learn about mental health resources.
“We really want to focus on things that people can connect to,” Meyer said.
The students want to ensure that those who feel isolated have peers to talk with not just adults because the social trials of school have changed radically with technology.
“We want to be that group that understands what they are going though,” Animas High School sophomore Ori Rehman said.
When youth feel valued in their community, suicide rates, depression and self-harm among teens drop, said humanities teacher Shane Nelson, who helped organize the project. San Juan Basin Public Health and La Plata Youth Services are sponsoring the event, which will be held in coordination with the city’s celebration of north Main Avenue.
Students or organizations who would like to participate can reach the students at firstname.lastname@example.org. Students interested in performing can also participate in an open mic portion of the event.