HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (CBS4) – A local tragedy is bringing attention to a very difficult topic after an eighth-grader in Douglas County died as part of a suicide pact with others two weeks ago.
More than 1,000 people in Colorado committed suicide last year. More help available now than ever before. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and groups like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention are on a mission to let teenagers know that suicide is not the answer.
CBS4’s Tom Mustin spoke to a Highlands Ranch woman whose son killed himself a few years ago. Sheri Cole says parents need to know that communication is the key, and more importantly, suicide can be prevented.
“You just can’t even figure out how you’re going to get through the next day,” Cole said.
Cole hopes her story will save lives. In 2009 her only child, 16-year-old David, took his life.
“(He had a) great sense of humor, very generous, kind-hearted,” Cole said.
David had been a popular student at Highlands Ranch High School. On the day of his death Cole received a short text from her son saying “goodbye.” Cole says looking back there were signs that David was unhappy.
“Restless, sometimes he would be irritable,” Cole said. “(He) had a shorter fuse, wasn’t sleeping well, sometimes he would sleep a lot.”
Cole went through years of depression. Now, three years later, she works for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Her message to parents and teens is get educated, communicate, and know that help is out there — from toll-free talk lines to counselors.
“It gets better; it can get better,” she said. “It’s okay to ask for help. It’s very courageous and you can save a life.”
There have been 42 suicides in Douglas County this year. Undersheriff Tony Spurlock says teens are especially vulnerable to depression.
“They feel the only way out of this depression is to take their own life. That’s not the answer,” Spurlock said.
Spurlock says every high school in the county has its own text-a-tip line that teens can dial for help. The sheriff’s office has documented numerous lives saved.
Cole says any effort to spare another family what she went through is worthwhile.
“I was very lucky to be his mom. I was very grateful he was my kid,” Cole said.
– American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Crisis Line: (800) 273-TALK (8255)
– Also call 911 and be connected to a counselor in seconds
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated more than 1,000 teens committed suicide in the state. More than 1,000 people, including teens, committed suicide.