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“Show us that our mental health matters as much as test scores and football games.”

“Open up to us so we can open up to you.”

“Reach out to us whether things seem good to bad, because if you wait for us to come to you with our problems, you could be waiting forever.”

This back-to-school season, the Mental Health Youth Action Board (YAB) at Children’s Hospital Colorado shared their thoughts on how school staff can be there for them. 

Watch what they had to say:

Even before COVID-19, 1 in 3 Colorado high school students said they felt sad or hopeless. Now, teens need support from school staff more than ever before. 

We partnered with the YAB to develop a video that would drive home that message in a powerful, memorable, and authentic way. Students from the YAB, which consists of 17 youth attending Denver metro area and Fort Morgan schools, informed the video every step of the way. They advised on the concept, script, visuals, and submitted their own message to be included. When COVID-19 interfered with our intention to film the video in person, YAB helped us come up with a new plan to use line art to bring the story to life. 

Incorporating youth voice in our work

This video will now be incorporated into the trainings delivered as part of PCMH’s efforts to increase the capacity of Colorado high schools to effectively identify, intervene, and support students at risk for suicide. The aim is that school professionals — from counselors to coaches to teachers — will feel encouraged to approach students and start a conversation about how they’re doing.

Our partnership with the YAB is just the start of our efforts to make PCMH trainings and other programs more personal and effective by highlighting youth voice and relevant lived experience. We know that in order to support the diverse mental health needs of Colorado communities, we need to involve youth in every aspect of our work — from selecting the training programs we deliver, to identifying the priority populations for our services, to identifying meaningful outcomes to track, and developing reports and information that are tailored to the interests of various audiences.  

Partnering with students on suicide prevention programs

Earlier this year, we partnered with student analysts at the Quad Innovation Partnership to create a portfolio of suicide prevention programs to implement in Colorado elementary and middle schools, as well as a feasibility index of how to implement them. 

The Quad connects students and faculty from Colorado College, the U.S. Air Force Academy, Pikes Peak Community College, and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs – the only higher education partnership like it in the United States.

Our work with the Quad and with the YAB have only underscored what we know about the power of youth voice. Without it, we won’t be able to effectively promote youth mental health and prevent youth suicide.