Youths tackle stigma surrounding mental illness

'It's Not Nothing' presentation hears accounts of losses to suicide

Posted 5/21/19

Noelle Harff and Ava Taylor saw a lack of understanding of mental health in their schools and among their peers. They, and the rest of the Lone Tree Youth Commission, decided to do something about …

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Youths tackle stigma surrounding mental illness

'It's Not Nothing' presentation hears accounts of losses to suicide

Posted

Noelle Harff and Ava Taylor saw a lack of understanding of mental health in their schools and among their peers. They, and the rest of the Lone Tree Youth Commission, decided to do something about it.

At the Lone Tree Arts Center May 16, hundreds of teenagers and parents filed into the theater for a presentation about a subject that is difficult for many to talk about.

“This issue has affected every teenager either personally or indirectly. We all know someone who struggles — a lot of us struggle ourselves,” Harff said. “This is not the solution. This is proof there is a solution … Hopefully this is one step closer to a society where we recognize mental illness.”

The “It's Not Nothing” event, emceed by youth commission chair Harff and co-chair Taylor, set out to encourage talking about mental health in an effort to destigmatize the topic. Four guest speakers shared their personal stories of loved ones who died by suicide, some reading personal entries from journals, shining a light on the grim reality of the worst of mental illness. About 150 people attended the event in all.

Alex Bush, a student at St. Mary's Academy, began the evening with an emotional story about her experience with loved ones who had died by suicide. Bush read an entry from her journal from the time her father died by suicide.

Maria Bales, a suicide prevention advocate, told the story about her son, Nick, who died by suicide at 17. Bales encouraged the audience to remove their “masks” and make themselves vulnerable to seek help before it's too late.

Denny Ying from Rides for Hope, a mental health campaign for veteran suicides, spoke about his journey to cycle across the country for his own mental health, and to highlight the importance of recognizing poor mental health.

Sarah Davidon, research director for Mental Health Colorado, provided information on how to be involved with the fight for better mental health care in Colorado. Davidon had just come from an event where Gov. Jared Polis signed the Parity Bill into law, making mental wellness check-ups easier to schedule.

“We have seen our youth rise up and show strength when they shouldn't have to,” Davidon said.

Taylor said this will hopefully get the ball rolling among her peers. Starting the conversation is the first step.

“We don't always know 'How do we handle it? How do we help someone? How do we help ourselves?'” Taylor said. “If we could just be open about it and have conversations and be open and transparent to destigmatize it, that will be leaps and bounds.”

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