Youth Suicide Prevention

Suicide is the leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 17 in Colorado. In El Paso County, which includes the City of Colorado Springs, deaths by suicide among youth under the age of 18 increased in recent years, from seven deaths in 2014 to 15 in 2016 and 13 in 2017.

Taking Community Action: Youth Suicide Prevention Workgroup

Youth mental health and suicide prevention has been a long-standing top priority for El Paso County Public Health (EPCPH) and community partners. Youth suicide is an issue that has deeply impacted El Paso County communities, which has led to numerous community partners coming together through the El Paso County Youth Suicide Prevention [YSP] Workgroup. 

Convened by EPCPH since 2015, the El Paso County Youth Suicide Prevention [YSP] Workgroup engages community partners to take collective action to support youth mental health, well-being, and suicide prevention. Since its inception, the YSP Workgroup has had 66 partner agencies and 24 community members and parents contribute to this work, including school districts, parents, behavioral health providers, faith community leaders, hospitals, the El Paso County Coroner’s Office and other organizations that work closely with youth. 

Vision | Youth across all communities, from every background, are prepared, empowered, and supported to survive and thrive even through difficult times.  
Mission | Through collaboration, we prepare, empower and support youth by providing impactful suicide prevention.

The YSP Workgroup is connected to a larger network centered around reducing suicide in El Paso County and the state. The El Paso County Suicide Prevention Collaborative is focused on evidence based suicide prevention strategies and priority populations with a goal to reduce death by suicide by 20% by 2024. 

Get Involved

Suicide prevention is everyone’s business, and we can all play a role in increasing mental wellness in our community. 

There are several ways you can get involved today:  

  • Reach out to our Youth Suicide Prevention [YSP] Workgroup Facilitator to learn more about joining the YSP Workgroup as a member or a supporter
  • Attend a suicide prevention training
  • Familiarize yourself with local resources and support. See learn more tab for upcoming trainings

For more information on the Youth Suicide Prevention Workgroup or to get involved, please contact:

Brittany Riffle, MSW
Youth Resilience and Suicide Prevention Planner
El Paso County Public Health 
[email protected]

Responding to Mental Illness and Suicide

No single intervention or prevention program can prevent all suicides. Suicide is most effectively prevented by a community-based approach through implementation of programs across all ages and settings.

Signs and symptoms (Mental Illness)

When you are concerned about mental illness and youth. You want to pay attention to changes in behavior. You want to examine the impact of change. You can ask yourself if because of what you are seeing, or noticing, is the youth struggling in school, in social settings, and in daily activities?  You also want to look at the duration of these changes (how long have you been noticing these changes).  

If you are concerned about someone, ask yourself the following questions. Have they shown or shared any of the following:

You can look for things like:   

  • Pattern Adjustments: overeating or not eating at all, sleeping much more or much less than they used to. 
  • Depressed mood and/or mood swings. 
  • Lack of emotion or emotional response. 
  • Withdrawing from others (friends, family members, and areas of interest). 
  • Difficulty making decisions, concentrating or remembering.  
  • Frequent self-criticism or self-blame.  
  • Changes in hygiene. 

If you are concerned about someone, ask yourself the following questions. Have they shown or shared any of the following:

  1. Talking about wanting to die, be dead, or about suicide, or are they cutting or burning themselves?
  2. Feeling like things may never get better, seeming like they are in terrible emotional pain (like something is wrong deep inside but they can't make it go away), or they are struggling to deal with a big loss in their life?
  3. Or is your gut telling you to be worried because they have withdrawn from everyone and everything, have become more anxious or on edge, seem unusually angry, or just don't seem normal to you?

Signs and Symptoms (Suicide)   

  • Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide.  
  • Being unable to sleep or sleeping all the time.  
  • Giving away prized possessions.  
  • Thinking there is no reason for living.  
  • Feeling trapped, or like there is no way out of a difficult situation.  

How can you respond?

If you notice any of these warning signs in anyone, you can help!

  • Ask if they are okay or if they are having thoughts about suicide (it is important to be direct, and use either of these questions: “are you thinking of killing yourself” or “are you thinking about suicide”).
  • Express your concern about what you are observing in their behavior.
  • Listen closely, and do not judge.
  • Reflect on what they share and let them know they have been heard.
  • Tell them they are not alone.
  • Let them know there are resources available that can help.
  • If you or they are concerned, guide them to additional professional help.

Learn More

Getting Help

For someone with an immediate life-threatening emergency, dial 9-1-1 for assistance.

  • Colorado Crisis Services Hotline: Call 1-844-493-8255 or text "TALK" to 38255 | This hotline will connect you to a crisis counselor or trained professional. The staffer will assess risk and determine if a mobile response is necessary 
    • If a mobile response is necessary, the Mobile Response Team or Community Response Team will strive to make contact within one hour in Colorado Springs, or two hours outside of Colorado Springs . 
  • Crisis Stabilization Units 
    • Cedar Springs Hospital | Cedar Springs offers 24/7 referrals and assessments by phone or online for individuals of all ages who suffer from psychiatric disorders, substance use, or co-occurring conditions.  
    • Diversus Health | Diversus offers a 24/7 walk-in crisis center for all ages, regardless of ability to pay for crisis services and counseling, as well as around the clock care for mental wellbeing.  
    • Peak View Behavioral Health | Peak View offers complimentary assessments 24/7 for individuals of all ages seeking help and support for mental health and/or substance use.  

Educational Resources

Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Trainings

  • Mental Health First Aid/Youth Mental Health First Aid | A skill-based training course that teaches participants about mental health and substance use issues. You will learn about risk factors, protective factors, warning signs, a 5 step action plan, and where to turn for help in crisis and non-crisis situations.  
  • Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) | A two-day interactive training on suicide first aid, with a focus on identifying elements of a suicide safety plan, for anyone 16 and older, regardless of prior experience.  
  • Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) | A 90-minute training with instructions on asking someone about suicidal thoughts, persuading them to get help, and referring them to community resources.  
  • Soul Shop | An interactive workshop that equips faith community leaders and other people of faith to train their congregations to minister to those impacted by suicidal desperation.  

For local training opportunities, visit:   

State & National Resources