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"I just don't want to be here"
“We think of it as an anomaly,” Kevin Shipley told members of the Greater Littleton Youth Initiative on Friday. “We don’t hear about it as often as it happens.”
The topic was suicide, the second-leading cause of teen deaths behind accidents. Colorado ranks sixth in the nation for number of teen suicides.
Shipley is the executive director of the Second Wind Fund of Metro Denver, which works to swiftly connect low-income, at-risk teens in Arapahoe County and throughout the metro area with counseling services.
The fund was established in 2002 after a series of suicides by Green Mountain High School students in Lakewood. Sixty-six people walked to raise $4,000; since then, Second Wind has served 1,950 young people. Shipley said as far as he knows, all of them are alive today. He estimates there are 25,000 more who could qualify right now if somebody recognized they were at risk.
Most kids considering suicide, says Shipley, think, "I don’t really want to die, I just don’t want to be here." So they might drop subtle hints, even jokingly. Shipley says to take those seriously.
“We tell the kids that’s the one time it’s OK not to keep a secret,” he said. “… You’ve got that dirty little secret out on the table, and that mitigates the risk.”
In 2004, Littleton Adventist Hospital was seeing an average of five people a day who had attempted suicide, three of whom were young people. The hospital approached GLYI for help, and the group launched suicide-prevention programs throughout the community. Today, each high school reports a monthly average of five requests for help from suicidal students.
For more information on GLYI’s suicide-prevention programs, go here. For more about Second Wind, go here.