After four Douglas County students committed suicide in the span of 11 days earlier this year, two Highlands Ranch teens are responding by reaching out.
Mountain Vista High School students Sean Harris and Jake Meyer, both 17, spent a day editing a video for a school assignment on March 4. After reading “Catcher in the Rye,” the class was instructed to take a theme from the book and make a public service announcement, the teens said.
After news spread about the suicides, Harris and Meyer decided to tackle teen depression.
“The most powerful part to me was to see the reach,” Harris said, referencing views from Europe and Australia. “In this society, this is something that's not talked about. Yeah, it's a school project, but then you see where people you don't even know are watching it. And suddenly it's not a school project anymore.”
The suicides occurred between Jan. 31 and Feb. 11 and sparked countywide concern, prompting a response from the school district. The children ranged in age from 15 to 17 and included Robert Klamo, the 15-year-old who fatally shot his mother and then himself on Jan. 31 in Highlands Ranch.
Klamo was also a Mountain Vista student and reportedly endured mental health issues. When that news broke, Harris said that it “hit home in a pretty big way.”
“It's one of those things you don't think about until it happens in your own life,” Harris said. “It's always in the back of our minds.”“It happens, and people are aware of it for the next week, and then they go back to their lives,” Meyer said. “Students can't go to school and feel safe.
Another suicide happens, and you block it out. Then another happens, and there's just not much more you can emotionally handle.”
The two-minute video features images spliced with suicide statistics and pertinent quotes from “Catcher in the Rye” as the Goo Goo Doll's “Iris” plays in the background. The video also displays various hotlines for “anyone in any scenario, so they know there is a safe place to talk about it,” Meyer said. They posted the video to YouTube and have used social media to promote it.
The video had 340 views within 24 hours. As of March 17, the count reached 669.
Colorado consistently ranks in the top 10 states with the highest suicide rates, according to research compiled by Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network. In 2011, 910 people died by their own hand here, more than by homicide and car crashes combined. That year, suicide was the second-leading cause of death for Coloradans ages 10 to 34.
“We're just trying to get it out there,” Meyer said. “That's the main thing.”Click here to watch the video.
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