A mental health offering to AHS | AspenTimes.com

A mental health offering to AHS

A mental health offering to AHS

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, teens across Colorado are at higher risk for major depression, alcohol use and other drug use than national average. Here in the Aspen community, we have an urgent issue with our teens and their mental health and substance misuse. We are losing our young people to drug overdoses and suicide and more has to be done.

Aspen High School is the setting where most of our teenagers spend time. It is the best place for our community leaders to implement actions to identify and protect students who may be at risk. This is why we included Aspen High School in our community event in August 2017, where members of the public had an open conversation about teen drug use and suicide. At this event, I announced that I had arranged for a national nonprofit organization, The Jed Foundation, to offer free advising and resources to Aspen High School to help the school assess and strengthen its programming. These activities would include the development of a strategic plan to support student emotional well-being and mental health and would include actions such as 1) educating students about mental health and drug use, 2) training students how to notice if a peer is struggling and what to do about it, 3) training teachers and administrations how to identify at-risk students and connect them to services, 4) assessing current policies, crisis procedures and treatment services and 5) helping provide resources designed to help students prepare emotionally for the transition out of high school, among other potential activities.

Since August, Aspen High School has not responded to my offer of support and they have not contacted The Jed Foundation after outreach from the organization to the school. I do not care if my offer support from The Jed Foundation is accepted. That does not matter. What does matter here is that Aspen High School — being the institution where most of our teens spend their days — has implemented a comprehensive, strategic plan to support student mental health and reduce risks for drug abuse and suicide. This plan should be shared with the entire Aspen community. We were told by a high school board member that we would be contacted by Superintendent John Maloy, but we have never heard from him. I am calling on Aspen High School, Principal Tharyn Mulberry, and Maloy to take this action. We as a community want to know the actions being taken to protect our students and we also would like to know if and how we can help.

Jackie Long

Founder and Executive Director

Callie’s Backyard Foundation