PUEBLO - Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman stood with southern Colorado and state health leaders Tuesday to announce two youth suicide prevention initiatives that her office is launching.
Colorado ranks among the 10 states with the worst suicide rates, with more Coloradans dying by suicide than by homicide, motor vehicle crashes, diabetes or breast cancer, Coffman said.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 34, and the state's worst youth suicide rates are in El Paso, Pueblo, La Plata and Mesa counties, she said at a news conference at the Pueblo City-County Health Department.
"It is critically important that Colorado communities have the information and the resources they need to provide the best possible support for these young people and let kids know that they are not alone in the situations they are facing," she said.
The Attorney General's Office will spend $200,000 so up to 40 Colorado schools can implement the Sources of Strength program.
Its strategy is to recruit and train adult advisors to partner with youth peer leaders who represent a wide diversity at a school or community, said Dan Adams, the program's training director.
The youth leaders would include non-traditional role models, kids who could be considered edgy but will effectively get the message to students who need it, Adams said.
The core of Sources of Strength consists of eight protective factors: family support, positive friends, mentors, healthy activities, generosity, spirituality, better access to mental health care, and "listening to youth about what works in their life to overcome adversity and to help them bounce back from an emotionally challenging event," he said.
Sources of Strength is in schools in 32 states and on Indian reservations as well as in Canada, New Zealand and Australia, Adams said.
The second initiative is a $173,000 study to analyze and characterize the patterns of fatal and non-fatal suicide behaviors among young people in those four counties with the worst rates.
The Attorney General's Office is working with Health Management Associates and the Colorado Office of Suicide Prevention on the study, to be conducted from January through May.
Once the research is done, youth suicide prevention techniques will be recommended.
People experiencing crisis always can call 1-844-493-8255 to be connected to a skilled, trained counselor, 24-7.