AURORA | A spate of suicide attempts among young people in Aurora over the past week has prompted the city and police department to raise awareness and highlight available mental health resources.
Over the past six days, there were seven suicide attempts from people ages eight to 16 in Aurora, APD spokesperson Crystal McCoy told the Sentinel. None were fatal.
“It’s an alarming number,” she said.
The attempts did not appear to be connected in any way, and were not concentrated in any specific part of the city, McCoy said. She did not know what the specific causes were, but noted that the isolation and other hardships caused by COVID-19 could be a factor.
Because there were so many in such a short time span, APD Chief Vanessa Wilson brought the matter to the city council’s attention in an email on Tuesday morning. The police and city communications departments were directed to put together an awareness campaign with information about how to access mental health resources.
Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman first posted about the wave of sucide attempts and the city’s response Tuesday afternoon on his Twitter account.
“This morning we received deeply troubling news from Vanessa Wilson, our Chief of Police, informed (sic) the members of our City Council and myself that in the City of Aurora there have been seven suicide attempts in the last six days with kids ranging from ages 8-16,” he wrote. “Chief Wilson is working with our school districts, with the media, and with our city’s Communication’s Department to put together a campaign to raise awareness about teen suicides so parents and educators understand what to watch out for.”
Council member Nicole Johnston, who recently announced she’s taken a job as the Project Manager of the Suicide Prevention Collaborative of El Paso County, criticized the mayor for discussing the issue before the city was able to release any information, and said that it was irresponsible of him to disclose the suicides without any context.
“When attempts happen, responsible language and messaging is critical,” she wrote in an email shared with the Sentinel. “In fact, it saves lives.”
On Twitter, APD published a message asking people to check in on the young people in their lives.
“Our youth are living in difficult times whether it’s bullying, isolation, alienation or victimization,” it said. “There are resources to help them through & you can be one of them. Please, check-in on the children in your life, be aware of the warning signs and Text ‘TALK’ to 38255 for help.”
An infographic listed “withdrawing from friends, family and social activity,” “becoming secretive” and “losing interest in favorite activities and not replacing with other pursuits” as potential warning signs of mental illness in teens.
McCoy said that it’s important to discuss suicide frankly with young people instead of being secretive about it. Many people are afraid to talk about it because of a mistaken idea that discussing suicide will help trigger suicidal ideation, she said.
“Studies have shown that talking about suicide does not cause suicidal ideation,” McCoy said.
People who are concerned about a friend’s well-being can make anonymous reports through Safe2Tell at 1-877-542-7233.
The Colorado Crisis Services’ 24/7 hotline can be reached at 1-844-493-8255.