“We were simply tired of going to student funerals.” Golden High School grapples with the mental health crisis, AG Weiser meets with students

Colorado attorney general Phil Weiser met with students Tuesday at Golden High School to  address the mental health crisis.

“The [U.S.] surgeon general recently called teen mental health concerns a national crisis,” Weiser said to a room of students, parents, and teachers. “That was not done lightly. He looked at the levels of emergency room visits, overdose deaths, and other warning signs of what young people are facing.”

Experts say the crisis is present among Colorado children, thanks in part to climate anxiety, worldwide violence, and other traumas, like ongoing grief caused by the pandemic. The top report submitted to Safe2Tell, the statewide anonymous tip line for students, is a suicide threat. And suicides remain the top cause of death of Coloradans ages 12-24.   

During Golden High’s 2015 school year, three students committed suicide. 

“We were simply tired of going to student funerals,” Golden High principal Brian Conroy said. 

The tragedy led the school to work with Sources of Strength, a nonprofit that builds programs to reduce youth suicide. The program aims to increase student engagement by encouraging one-on-one conversations and changing stigmas about youth mental health. 

Soli Ficco, an incoming senior at Golden High, has done Sources of Strength since she was in middle school. She said it’s helped her connect with peers and change her own habits. 

“We're all struggling through something,” Ficco said. “It’s never just a one-sided thing that everyone doesn’t notice, everyone’s going through something and everyone’s there to help.”

Weiser spoke with students like Ficco and high school faculty who advise the program. The Colorado Department of Law has helped fund programs like Sources of Strength, with $5 million allocated to various programs across the state. 

The attorney general praised the work Golden High has been doing, but acknowledged Colorado needs to make more funding and resources available to extend mental health programs to every school in the state.

“You have proven the benefits and it's on us. People like your state senator, your county commissioner, your mayor, myself, to do that work,” Weiser said. 

If you are in crisis or are looking for mental health services for you or someone you know, call the Colorado Crisis Services hotline. Call 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255 to speak with a trained counselor or professional. Counselors are also available at walk-in locations or online to chat between 4 p.m. and 12 a.m.