© 2024 KUNR
Illustration of rolling hills with occasional trees and a radio tower.
Serving Northern Nevada and the Eastern Sierra
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
iPhone users: Having trouble listening live on KUNR.org? Click here to download our app to listen to your favorite shows.
KUNR Public Radio is a proud partner in the Mountain West News Bureau, a partnership of public media stations that serve Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming. The mission is to tell stories about the people, places and issues of the Mountain West.

Colorado Bills Aim To Help Schools Promote Mental Health

Youth suicide rates have spiked alarmingly in recent years, especially in the Mountain West.
Creative Commons Zero - CC0 / Pixabay
Youth suicide rates have spiked alarmingly in recent years, especially in the Mountain West.

Recognizing the youth mental health crisis in the Mountain West, some states are debating bills that address the problem from both inside and outside of schools.

Colorado state Sen. Rhonda Fields is sponsoring two such bills. One provides funding to train teachers and administrators in mental health first aid.

“Just like we have CPR first aid training, we would like to have that same type of emphasis as relates to behavioral health,” Fields said.

She wants school personnel to be trained to recognize when a student is at risk for depression or suicide. 

“We’re not asking for teachers or administrators to diagnose or treat,” she said. “We’re just saying we’re seeing signs in someone that used to be happy one day and now all of a sudden they’re demonstrating behaviors that just seem like they need some help.”

Her other bill expands the definition for excused absences to include mental health disturbances.

“Let’s say you are sad because you lost your dog or you lost your grandma or you saw something traumatic in your home,” she says. “There’s not an opportunity to recognize a behavioral health illness as an excused absence.”

Fields says we still need resources to employ more mental health workers in schools. But she says these efforts are a start towards identifying and making space for young people’s struggles.

While the bills have bipartisan support, Fields acknowledges there could be some pushback due to the cost of mental health training, which could reach $1 million per year.

The Mountain West suffers some of the highest rates of youth suicide rates in the county—in some communities as much as two to three times the national average.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center For the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Copyright 2020 KRCC

Ali Budner is KRCC's reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, a journalism collaborative that unites six stations across the Mountain West, including stations in Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and Montana to better serve the people of the region. The project focuses its reporting on topic areas including issues of land and water, growth, politics, and Western culture and heritage.
Related Content