GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. -- A newly released report is calling youth suicides in Colorado a public health crisis. As the state releases alarming new numbers, one mother sat down with Denver7 about her son and the battles he faced.
The state spent the last year studying suicide rates in Colorado and found that between the ages of 10 and 18, more than 815 females were hospitalized because of a suicide attempt and males, nearly 250.
On the outside, 17-year-old Nick Bales seemed picture perfect. A senior at Arapahoe High School. He was handsome, athletic, popular and creative. But, only a few knew, Nick struggled with anxiety and depression since the 6th grade. His parents, Will and Maria Bales, went to therapy with him, switched schools and tried medication.
"The assumption I made was that because of the life that he was showing us, that he was getting better," said Will Bales.
In his senior year, he got straight A's for the first time and had even started his own clothing line, called BTR.
It seemed like he had turned a corner, but in September of 2018, he took his own life.
"My worst nightmare come true. Nick and I talked about it. He promised he wouldn't do it. And it was just a nightmare, a nightmare that will never leave us, " said Maria.
Just a few days later, Nick's friend and classmate at Arapahoe High School would also commit suicide. The community was still reeling from several teen suicides in the last few years.
"It was just a wake-up call to create awareness. That this needs to stop, these kids are seriously struggling," said Maria.
According to the Attorney General’s new study, in Colorado from 2015 to 2017 there were 222 suicides by people between 10 and 18 years old.
Reasons for teen suicide included anxiety about failing, social media and cyberbullying and lack of connecting to a caring adult.
"It seemed completely surreal. I still have those feelings today. Where I’ll sit on the couch and wait for him to come home," said Will.
In the months since Nick's death, Maria has taken her message public, speaking at Nick's high school. She’s trying to embolden the community to take a step back and talk to their kids and students who deal with the pressures of school and social media, to rid mental health of its stigma so kids will ask for help.
"I wished I had somebody who spoke to us and tell us that when somebody is suffering from anxiety, depression or mental illness that the little signs, subtle things are a big deal," said Maria.
If you need help or know someone that does, you can always call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Colorado’s Safe2Tell hotline at 1-877-542-7233 is also a place to voice concerns anonymously. This past school year, there were more than 2,000 suicide intervention tips.
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Preventing suicide in Colorado: Resources from in-person help to phone lines, apps and more