DENVER (CBS4) – A group of teenagers took to the streets of Denver on Saturday in hope of starting a conversation about mental health and suicide awareness among teenagers. The group, “Robbie’s Hope,” approached strangers along the 16th Street Mall to start their conversation.
They hoped a simple discussion would help prevent others from experiencing the pain they did, when their friend Robbie Eckert took his own life in 2018.
“(Robbie’s death) was a complete shock to us,” said Michael Bennett, a friend of Eckert’s.
Eckert’s friends, mostly students at Lakewood High School, said they never knew the pain he was experiencing in private.
“He was always smiling, always super bubbly. He had a lot of friends. He was on swim team,” said Nina Birdsey, a friend of Eckert’s.
“We all knew him really well. We really didn’t know how he was feeling. So, it was a surprise to us,” Bennett said.
Since their loss, the teenagers have teamed up with Eckert’s family to create and fuel “Robbie’s Hope.” The organization has an ambitious goal to cut Colorado’s teenage suicide rate in half by 2028. By approaching strangers, especially adults, they hoped to encourage others to check in on each other, and to let those in pain know their emotions should be talked out.
“It’s okay not to be okay,” Bennett said. “People come together, they get involved, they talk about how to prevent it.”
“I was like, ‘Wow,’” said Chris Reinertson, one of the many who stopped to talk with the teenagers on Saturday.
Reinertson, a father of four, said he was encouraged to see the teenagers out spreading their message, and encouraging peers to take mental health seriously. He is in Denver visiting, and didn’t expect to have such an important conversation with others.
“It was a wonderful conversation,” Reinertson said. “It’s a pertinent conversation to have with your family, and your kids.”
“It is really important to talk about it, and destigmatize the conversation,” Birdsey said.
Reinertson said he brought his son to Colorado to go skiing. However, after having the conversation with the Lakewood High students downtown, he was encouraged even more by how Coloradans were coming together to help others.
“I asked my son, ‘Why don’t we try to see if we could get the heart of Denver?” Reinertson said. “And, we were like, ‘Wow, I think we are starting to get the heart and feel of Denver.”
LINK: Colorado Crisis Services