September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and the mission of Lafayette-based Rise Against Suicide – to help youth at risk of suicide by eliminating financial and social barriers to treatment, hope, and healing – is more essential than ever.
“We anticipate that COVID-19 is going to cause a mental health pandemic,” says Jenna Clinchard, Executive Director. “Before COVID, Colorado's teen suicide rate increased by 58% between 2016 and 2019. Unfortunately, we expect this number to be even higher in our current ‘new normal.’
“Many youth have become homeless, food insecure, and left without healthcare because their parents have been laid off from work. As we know, homelessness, food insecurity, and no insurance cause a lot of stress that youth aren’t equipped to process on their own.”
Adds Jenna, “COVID has also caused our most vulnerable youth to be stuck in abusive homes with nowhere to escape, and their trauma continues to get worse.
“Online schooling, social distancing, and the unknowns of life right now are further causing youth to feel unsettled, and unable to process all of this.”
A majority of youth served by Rise Against Suicide are referred through local school districts. “However, with the kiddos doing remote learning, we’ve had to create new ways to reach them,” says Jenna.
“We’re now encouraging parents through the school districts and our website to reach out to our organization if their child is uninsured or underinsured, and struggling with suicidal ideation. We’ve also contacted other organizations that work with a similar youth demographic to contact us if they have kiddos that need help. As a community, we need to come together to make sure we keep our children safe and mentally healthy.”
“Before COVID, most of our [licensed and insured] therapists met the kiddos at their schools for therapy sessions,” explains Jenna. “Now, they meet online through telehealth. Some of our therapists are seeing youth in person, but all are using telehealth.
“We’re also bringing on an in-house qualified referral source who will perform risk assessments to identify suicidal ideation, and whether a child qualifies for our services. Taking this step will allow parents and youth to call our organization directly, and get a risk assessment performed within 24-72 hours.”
According to this parent testimonial, such innovations and dedication are paying off:
“I am writing to thank you for the help and hope you have given my son and our entire family. My 15-year-old son was seen by a therapist within his health insurance plan, and was found to be deeply depressed and suicidal. During this time of shock, pain, and fear, we were told the health insurance plan did not cover mental health treatment … so for him to be hospitalized or even receive outpatient counseling, we would have to pay fully out-of-pocket. Having limited financial resources, we were desperate to keep him safe and find outgoing therapy we could pay for without becoming homeless. We called over 30 resources trying to find help for him, and finally – through his school – found Rise Against Suicide. Words cannot express the relief and hope your organization offered at a time when we so desperately needed help.
“[…] As a parent, you feel so helpless and paralyzed with fear that you may lose your child. Yet there are such limited sources for help. You watch over your child so carefully from infancy, provide good nutrition, good physical care, protection from disease, safety, love, and nurturing – and, if you’re lucky, you have health insurance for your child. But what happens when your health insurance provider decides mental health isn’t something they will cover, and this precious child you love so much develops depression?
“[…] Available, affordable help is in short supply, which is why Rise Against Suicide is such a valuable and necessary fund. […] It has saved an untold number of lives. It has certainly rescued our family, and we will be forever grateful!”
Concludes Jenna, “It’s important that our community knows that, despite COVID-19, we’re open and still helping uninsured or underinsured youth – up to age 19 – who are struggling with suicidal ideation.”
Your Community Foundation established the COVID-19 Response Fund Boulder County to ensure essential services for community members who find themselves at the intersection of being most vulnerable to the virus and most impacted by inequity. Learn more and consider donating.