By Jaleesa Irizarry
According to the state health department, suicide is a leading cause of death for Colorado’s young adults. The crisis text line is open 24/7 and it’s anonymous.
Young adults in Denver have a new way to connect to help during a mental health crisis, and it’s just a text away.
Caring for Denver Foundation, a nonprofit created by a ballot initiative in 2018, has launched a crisis text line for young adults. Beginning this week, young people can text the word ‘Denver’ to 741741 to reach a live, volunteer crisis counselor.
According to the state health department, suicide is a leading cause of death for Colorado’s young adults.
Lorez Meinhold, the organization’s executive director, spoke with 9NEWS about the new efforts being made to help young adults.
9NEWS: What is the Caring for Denver Foundation?
Meinhold: Caring for Denver Foundation was founded by a Denver ballot initiative in 2018. So we were created by the Denver community for our community. Our funding comes from sales tax dollars which we redistribute from grants to community organizations. We’re wrapping up our fourth year of grant making which will prove more than $140 million in funding to over 240 organizations.
What is it that your organization is doing for young adults this week?
Meinhold: We have seen a great need among our youth for more access to services where they’re at. We know that youth have seen a poor rate of mental health and have seen that increase since the pandemic and so especially true for our Black, indigenous youth of color as well as our youth who identify as LGTBQIA. We know that suicide is a leading cause for death for Colorado’s youth in young adults and so we heard from the community that there’s just a need for immediate crisis response support for youth.
So it’s a text line with real people. It’s 24/7 and its anonymous as well which is important for a lot of our youth as well. They’re part of a larger network related to crisis support so they can still bring that support if a youth is truly in crisis, but they are texting with real people to sort through anything they’re struggling with from school streets to breakups to isolation or hard and suicidal thoughts and so young people will be able to text the word ‘Denver’ to 741741 to reach a live volunteer crisis counselor. There is actually not only English texting but Spanish texting as well.
Who runs this text line?
Meinhold: We’re partnering with some masters of social work students at Metro so that we are also helping build the workforce as well and the workforce reflects the community we’re seeing to serve. So, what we’re hoping to do is grow a workforce that is more reflective of community but also meet the potential demand. I think that’s why we’re also focused on what does it take to lift up a resource like this in Denver. What’s the support that’s needed so that actually other communities can take this up as well.
Are you teaming up with any schools to promote this new tool?
Meinhold: Yes, so we’ll be partnering with some of the mental health services available at Denver Public Schools to get the word out. There will be posters and resources but not just DPS. We’ll partner with Denver Health and the school-based health centers hopefully rec centers, libraries, some of our trusted community organizations that work with youth, so that we can also put these resources up and so that youth feel safe, and the most important thing is about knowing it to be able to use it.
Why a text and not a phone call?
Meinhold: It’s so important to meet them where they’re at in ways that work for them. Sometimes that might happen at 1:30 at night or 2 a.m. and then knowing they can talk to a real person at that time when they’re in that moment is so important because it’s not always 9-5, when we’re in school or hanging out with people, there’s points in time where people might feel more lonely.
There are resources outside of this. This is not intended to be a one-size-fits-all it’s just how do we really think about the young person we’re serving, what’s going to resonate most with them and then what’s the right resource for them.