Denver hosts first We Got This! Youth Mental Health Summit

Published on May 02, 2022

More than 300 participate in event for youth, by youth, targeting suicide and mental health issues

Today the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment brought together more than 300 teens, young adults, and parents from the Denver-metro area to participate in the first We Got This! Youth Mental Health Summit for a day of peer-based interactive workshops and presentations aimed at raising awareness of and garnering insights around the issues that youth face today regarding mental health and suicide.

The inaugural We Got This! Summit – an event coordinated for youth, by youth – provided an opportunity for young people to explore a variety of coping mechanisms shared by professionals and their peers, and interactions throughout the day with musical guests 2MX2 and Kid Astronaut, slam poet and entertainer Bianca Mikahn, and Olympian Jermain Stafford.

“It’s imperative that we aggressively pursue meaningful ways to positively address these issues, and it is vitally important to bring youth into the conversation and inform how we move forward,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “The struggles our young people face with their mental health are real. We can better support them and their self-care, and through community involvement, we’ll be better able to break the stigma around suicide and mental health challenges.”

Deaths by suicide in the City and County of Denver, as well as around the state and nationally, have remained at unacceptable numbers over the past five years, especially among our young people. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among those ages 10 to 24 in Denver and Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment. Colorado's suicide rate remains among the top 10 highest in the nation, nearly double that of the national average. In addition, youth have been particularly impacted by feelings of isolation and disconnectedness during the pandemic, as a greater percentage of students overall reported an increase in feeling sad or hopeless from the prior year (37.1% in 2019 vs. 39.5% in 2020), as shared in the self-reported youth data shared in the state’s Office of Suicide Prevention Annual Report for 2020-2021.

Through a series of breakout sessions, hands-on activities, and group discussions, the first We Got This! Youth Mental Health Summit aimed to provide a platform for Denver’s youth to have an open dialogue about mental health challenges. Goals of the Summit included:

  • Educating youth on how to live a mentally healthy lifestyle and help create pathways for youth toward future self-sufficiency
  • Providing access to information (including coping skills, therapy options, suicide prevention resources, and community help) to support youth suicide prevention in our communities
  • Teaching youth to recognize the signs of depression and suicide, and how to access help if they are worried about themselves  
  • Helping youth build relationships with their peers to find common humanity in others and transform divisive attitudes and foster acceptance and tolerance by encouraging open, honest dialogue that allows youth to speak their truths
  • Instilling courage, confidence and character in youth who may feel marginalized or not seen or heard, particularly Youth of Color, LGTBQIA+, and youth with disabilities

“DDPHE is committed to ensuring that youth have access to the support and resources they need, and the We Got This! summit is a significant part of making that happen,” says DDPHE Executive Director Bob McDonald. “Helping youth become knowledgeable about and practicing self-care, as well as encouraging them to check in on others and to reach out for help when they know something is wrong are all important components of the process we have implemented.”

The We Got This! Summit was funded through Denver’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation included in Mayor Hancock’s 2022 budget. Denver’s long-range plan for recovery includes direct distribution of $308 million in ARPA Local Relief Funds. To date, Denver has received and allocated $154 million in ARPA funds to support city, community and business recovery efforts. Denver solicited and received feedback from over 6,200 residents, Denver City Council, city agencies, the Mayor’s Stimulus Advisory Committee, and the Mayor’s Economic Recovery Council between May and September 2021 to inform the use of the city’s first round of ARPA funds.

DDPHE’s suicide prevention response strives to remove barriers, improve systems, and advocate for change, while promoting equity in the care system. If you are, or someone you know is, in need of confidential and immediate mental health, substance use, or emotional help, please visit Colorado Crisis Services online, call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text "TALK" to 38255 to be connected to a crisis counselor or trained professional with a master's or doctoral degree.