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Spike in teen suicides in 2020 in El Paso County

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., (KRDO)- September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Organizations across El Paso County are working to educate and reduce stigmas surrounding mental health.

Overall, suicides did not increase between 2019 and 2020 in El Paso County. However, suicides among El Paso County youth between 11 and 17 went up significantly compared to last year.

In 2020, 15 El Paso County teens took their own lives. In 2019, nine teens died by suicide.

An investigation by the El Paso County Coroner's Office revealed in18 suicide cases throughout the pandemic, COVID-19 associated grief or stress was a factor.

"For a couple of years we had seen a decrease in the number of teens and people even younger who were taking their lives, and that spiked back again last year and that is obviously incredibly sad, but also a challenge," said Kirk Woundy with National Alliance of Mental Illness in Colorado Springs.

Cassandra Walton, the executive director of the Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention Partnership, explains she's a mental health advocate after walking in on her daughter's suicide attempt.

"I felt devastated, I felt like a failure as a mom," said Walton. "Every parent needs to understand that it could happen in your household, it is important to acknowledge that our youth, our loved ones could be struggling with mental health. I had a rude awakening and I feel very passionate that it doesn't have to get to that point."

Now, the non-profit organization is hosting events all month in Colorado Springs to educate parents and teens on the signs to look out for.

"Things they are saying verbally, change in behavior, they can seem really sad and hopeless, hygiene, a change in their ability to be on time. Not everybody presents the same way, but if you know somebody it is just incredibly important for us to make it okay and realize that as a community we're not that great at asking help but reach out to those folks," Walton said.

The non-profit organization's Race Against Suicide Charity 5k run or 3k walk is on September 19 at Pomar Youth Sports Park in Colorado Springs.

They also provide free counseling and group sessions year long. For more information, check their website.

An investigation by the El Paso County Coroner's Office revealed 18 cases where COVID-19 associated grief or stress was a factor for suicide.

The Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention Partnership says these are some signs to look out for when dealing with a loved one.

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Jasmine Arenas

Jasmine is an MMJ and Anchor for Telemundo Surco and KRDO NewsChannel 13. Learn more about Jasmine here.

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