Aspen forum to put spotlight on helping teens
If you go
What: Helping Our Teens Through Family and Community
When: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Aspen District Theatre, Aspen Elementary School
Tickets: $15 online, $20 at the door; age 13 to 21 free (youth also can volunteer at the event)
The topic of teen health takes center stage at a forum Monday that comes in the aftermath of a string of traumatic episodes involving youth in the Aspen area.
Organized by Jillian Livingston, “Helping Our Teens Through Family and Community” is set for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Aspen District Theatre, where an array of speakers will address issues ranging from anxiety and depression to substance abuse.
“Whether it’s addiction to cellphones or whether parents see their kids having a lot of anxiety, I want to let the valley know what is available to all of us and who to go to for what,” said Livingston, founder of Aspen Connect, which puts on numerous community-oriented forums. “We can start there and get directed to whether we need to go outside the valley or whether we can handle the issue within the valley.”
The forum will be split into two parts.
The first will include parents and teens who will discuss bouts with their own addiction or a loved one’s and how they addressed it, as well as health issues teens face today and how family members can detect and address them. The forum also will discuss the local resources available for help — whether it concerns addiction, suicide or other aspects of mental health.
Livingston said the forum is open to individuals 13 years and older.
Moderating the conversation, which will include recovering addicts as well as their relatives, will be Christina King, founder of the nonprofit mental-health organization Aspen Strong.
“I think it’s a great way to start the dialogue,” King said.
Before the second conversation begins, Sonja Linman, the lead prevention specialist for the Roaring Fork School District, will give a presentation on why some youth are more prone to grappling with mental-health problems and substance abuse than others. Pitkin County Juvenile Investigator Bruce Benjamin also will discuss the legalities of substance use for teens as well as adults who contribute to the delinquency of minors.
In today’s world, Linman said, youth are constantly under assault from temptations ranging from cellphones to mind-altering substances — risk factors they believe help them “regulate” themselves.
“It has just become this snowball that is all connected together to increase kids’ vulnerability,” she said, adding that if youth who are provided with the “right tools” develop better coping skills than those who don’t have them.
“It might be through wellness, or kids playing sports, or communities that identify norms of wellness,” she said. “But in general, what kids are left to do is discover their own regulating skills.”
Left alone to figure it out, that’s what many do, Linman explained, noting that social media can glorify self-sabotage or self-destruction.
“It becomes the norm,” she said, emphasizing a systematic approach toward placing and keeping youth on the right path, which involves what she calls the four pillars — kids, families, schools and community interaction.
Linman’s talk will segue to the second conversation, which will focus on how family and community can work together to support youth. Liz Means, executive director for A Way Out, will moderate the discussion.
Guest speakers will include Dr. Sabrina A. Adams, who works in emergency medicine; Lance Nabers, development director of Aspen Mind Springs; Katherine Sand, director of Aspen Family Connections; Linman; counselor Dr. Craig Farnum; and Pitkin County Deputy Cameron Daniel, who also is an addiction counselor.
Livingston said she has been talking to numerous parents and youth in the community to get a better sense of what has led to a spate of unfortunate, as well as tragic, events involving valley youth.
Those episodes have included the alleged drunken-driving crash in the Missouri Heights area earlier this month that claimed the life of one Basalt teen and led to criminal charges against the driver, or the November crash on Maroon Creek Road that involved five Aspen-area teens, including the driver, Joseph Lipsey IV, 19. His parents, Shira and Joseph Lipsey III, also face criminal charges for allegedly providing cocaine and alcohol to underage high school students at the parents’ house on occasion.
“My ultimate goal is to help give tools to parents so that they can follow through on things that they are seeing with their children that concern them, and be mindful and present in their lives,” Livingston said.
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Officials have been trying for years to achieve cellphone service in Glenwood Canyon, but getting that infrastructure in place and activated has been a long and winding road.