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Teen Programs

Two for teens: NAMI extends its reach to local youth

In its first few decades, NAMI-Colorado Springs focused almost exclusively on helping adult family members of those with mental illness. In that, it was like most independently run affiliates of NAMI’s national organization.

But over the past five years, NAMI-Colorado Springs has sought to do more for our community. And as rates of teen suicides have spiked in El Paso County, we have debuted programs for younger people: Ending the Silence and the Below the Surface campaign.

Ending the Silence is a free, 50-minute, school-based presentation that serves as an introduction to mental health for many students. Two trained presenters — including one who is under 30 and living in recovery from mental illness — talk about the prevalence and biology of mental illness, warning signs, and resources for help. And they break down stigma by sharing their personal stories.

Since 2016, almost 1,000 local high school students have experienced Ending the Silence presentations, often in ninth-grade health classes.

Below the Surface, meanwhile, is a campaign to raise teens’ awareness of Colorado’s Crisis Text Line. This free, 24/7, state-funded line staffed by master’s-level mental-health clinicians, is not a suicide hotline, per se; it’s also there for those who find themselves feeling anxious, depressed, or upset, when emotions and thoughts are churning just “below the surface.” A youth advisory board of 10 teens helped NAMI and the Design Rangers graphic design firm develop posters, cards, a website and other items to promote this under-utilized resource locally.

Here’s youth advisor Chad Hawthorne on the experience, and the text line itself:

Soon, Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners (which runs the crisis line) will maintain an online dashboard full of data related to who is using the line, and why they’re texting. We hope this dashboard will help local mental-health professionals and community leaders make more informed choices about how to best meet the needs of area teens.

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