DENVER (CBS4) – A bill before state lawmakers would allow middle school students to seek mental health therapy without their parents’ permission.
Suicide is the number one cause of death in kids ages 10-14 in Colorado, and it’s rising at an alarming rate. Democratic Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet knows the heartache first-hand, and brought the bill to get kids the help they need before it’s too late.
“When people would ask me why I’m running for office, I had a very solid why, and that why was my son,” Michaelson Jenet told CBS4’s Shaun Boyd.
Five years ago, Michaelson Jenet got a call she says she’ll never forget — saying her son had attempted suicide at school.
“Your whole life stops in an instant,” she said.
Therapists had told her multiple times not to worry, that children his age aren’t at risk for suicide.
“And we started this whole new adventure… what does it mean when a 9-year-old attempts take their own life?”
Now Michaelson Jenet is carrying a bill meant to keep them from getting to that point of desperation. It would allow kids ages 12 and up to be able to talk to a licensed school therapist without first getting permission from a parent. Currently, they need to be at least 15.
The bill also requires therapists to inform parents if their child is suicidal.
“What if, when a child is feeling concerned and worried, they knew they could have a conversation with a trained professional?” said Michaelson Jenet. “Could we get to the point where that professional helps the child with the language they need to bring their parents into the conversation?”
The bill has bipartisan support.
“I don’t know if it’s the be all end all answer, but it’s one step we can do to give youth the access they need to get the help they need to make different choices.”
The bill initially applied to children ages 10 and up, but Michaelson Jenet amended it to 12 and up after some pushback. She says middle schoolers are more reluctant to seek therapy if they need their parents’ permission, even if they’re suicidal.