Ronna Autrey, of Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, shares her “survivor story,” which she said compels her to work and spread awareness about suicide and depression during a February suicide prevention forum at The Memorial Hospital in Craig.

Photo by Shawn McHugh

Ronna Autrey, of Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, shares her “survivor story,” which she said compels her to work and spread awareness about suicide and depression during a February suicide prevention forum at The Memorial Hospital in Craig.

Training sessions to help volunteers broach depression, suicide with teens

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— Suicide and depression are difficult topics to broach in any conversation, but with teenagers the challenge is necessary, local mental health professionals say. Because of that, about 15 Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide members from Steam­boat Springs and another six from Craig have signed up to learn how to bring the message to youths across North­west Colorado.

The program is part of an exciting shift for mental health professionals as they attempt to educate youths, Suicide Preven­tion Coordinator Ronna Autrey said.

“It’s taken us a long time to get into the schools and be able to talk about this subject, and now they’re coming to us. I see this as a very positive thing,” she said. “They no longer think that if we speak the word ‘suicide’ it’s going to cause it to happen. That’s progress.”

To better educate youths in the county, the REPS volunteers will complete a training session May 13 with the Western Colorado Suicide Prevention Foundation. That training will teach the volunteers a new curriculum for short sessions they will hold with students across the county. Autrey said the program will replace the old PowerPoint-driven presentation given in high school classes and will allow the volunteers to give shorter sessions with youth groups and clubs.

Penny Fletcher, a REPS volunteer, said she signed up for the training to better understand the warning signs of suicide and depression and to teach other students what to look for in their peers.

“It’s really important to try to reach out to the youth of our community right now so they understand what is happening with depression and suicide, and for them to have an avenue to communicate some of the emotions they’re going through,” she said.

At the same time, the training does not take the place of trained counselors who are called in when a child is thought to exhibit signs of depression.

“I think more than anything else, it’s being able to be trained to understand when a message is being delivered to you that a child is in need,” she said.

To identify those messages, the volunteers hope to find a good method for broaching the subject and starting dialogue with the students.

Summer Johnston, an office coordinator with Steamboat Mental Health, said she plans to take the seminar “to further my ability to talk to youth and to be able to present it, and, I guess, to be approachable and approach them.”

The program, part of Mental Health Month, also will be taught to non-REPS members after this first round of training, Autrey said.

Other activities planned this month include a garage sale May 22. Additional training sessions will take place in June.

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