Dear Larimer County families and community members:
Each school day, staff members at Larimer County’s three school districts welcome students into buildings to help them learn and grow. The teams at Estes Park School District, Poudre School District, and Thompson School District are dedicated to supporting not only the academic, but also the mental health needs of students and families residing in our communities.
September is designated as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The mental health of our youth is something that continues to impact our entire community. In 2021, Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a “youth mental health state of emergency.” National data from the Centers for Disease Control show that our teenagers are struggling with sadness, hopelessness and depression; our Northern Colorado youth are not exempt.
With an issue this concerning, it can be hard to know where to start. However, local, regional and national data highlight areas that we can attend to as we support our children. Two areas of the highest priority are anxiety and depression. Social anxiety can affect important protective factors, such as positive relationships with peers and adults. Generalized anxiety can affect protective factors including school success and engagement in extracurricular activities. Situational and clinical depression can contribute to withdrawal from the support of friends, family, and school and community members, as well as struggles with success in school, extracurricular activities and employment. Supporting our children in preventing and treating anxiety and depression can increase protective factors and decrease severe mental health concerns.
Unfortunately, many communities face a shortage of mental health providers and Larimer County is no stranger to this deficit. In addition, it can be confusing for families to navigate the many providers who are available, what they can offer, their availability for school-aged children and insurance.
Each of our school districts is committed to continuing to develop relationships with our community partners to improve our students’ access to proactive and responsive mental health services. We are working with our outstanding community partners to come together for what we are calling our Mental Health Summit: Eliminating Barriers, Illuminating Partnerships. We will educate all providers about the many services available in our community, how to access them, and identify barriers that our various systems are inadvertently causing. For several years, a priority of Larimer County’s school districts has been to improve a layered system of support for our students. Among these systems of support, we have increased the number of full-time counselors and provided innovative preventative support through our mental health professionals. We have provided professional learning opportunities for our staff to increase awareness of community resources for prevention and treatment, as well as how to prevent and respond to mental health crises. Secondary level students also receive suicide prevention education, substance abuse prevention education and information about community mental health resources. Our strong community partnerships with local mental health providers and prevention experts are also critical to our layered system of support. In addition to the upcoming Mental Health Summit, our layered system of support and our community partnerships, our teams are always planning for continuous improvement on behalf of our students and families. We are proud to partner with our families and community members to help each student build this foundation and succeed in their academic, social and emotional growth.
Remember: You are not alone. If you need immediate help, 988 offers 24/7 access to trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing mental health-related distress. People can call or text 988 or visit 988lifeline.org for themselves or if they are worried about a loved one.
We value your partnership as we continue to do all that we can to support the mental health of our students. If there is anything that we can do to assist you and your family, please do not hesitate to reach out to your school or our county support personnel. We are always happy to help.
Estes Park School District
Larimer County Public Health Director
Poudre School District
Dr. Marc Schaffer
Thompson School District