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Aurora police sees troubling rise in child, teen suicide attempts

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Posted at 11:59 PM, May 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-12 07:42:37-04

AURORA, Colo. — The Aurora Police Department (APD) is urging parents to talk to their kids after reports of seven suicide attempts in six days involving kids and teenagers.

Sammie Wicks, the public information officer for the Aurora Crisis Response Team, said the reported attempts involved kids who were between 8 and 16 years old. It's a trend they've noticed for the past few months.

“Since the pandemic started, a lot of kids are really feeling isolated. They are not connected to their friends, they are not connected to their school anymore, they don’t necessarily have a lot of structure,” Wicks said.

Wicks said the lack of structure is coupled with things kids already dealt with, like bullying and being victimized both online and offline.

May is also Mental Health Awareness month, and Wicks says it's important to reduce the stigmatization related to mental health and suicide by talking about it. While the conversations may be tough and parents may be concerned talking about it will increase a child's risk of becoming suicidal, studies show having the conversations are beneficial, according to Wicks.

Wicks says parents should watch for behavioral change in their loved ones.

"If you see a person who’s not normally withdrawn, getting withdrawn, that’s something to pay attention to," Wicks said. “They lose interest in some of the hobbies that they normally have interest in... grades are dropping. All of those changes in behavior can be indicators that you need to check in. They may not be something as extreme as that person being suicidal, but it’s worth talking to them.”

Wicks says there are a lot of community-based services, like local crisis walk-in centers, some that are low cost or no cost. If a child is 12 and up, they can also seek help on their own, and APD will help take them to a walk-in center without a guardian if they meet the age requirement.

Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman called the information "deeply troubling" and said his office is working with APD on a campaign to raise awareness on the issue.

In April, Colorado lawmakers introduced House Bill 1258 that would establish a temporary youth mental health services program to help kids learn to cope with the stress.

The bill calls for everyone under the age of 18 to be offered a free mental health assessment as well as three mental health sessions with a licensed professional, which the state would pay for. These services would also be offered to people 21 and younger who are enrolled in special education classes. The program would be available to students from May 31, 2021 until June 30, 2022 as an immediate response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the Colorado Suicide Crisis line at 1-800-784-2433.