Below the Surface campaign seeks to combat teen suicide

belowsurface.pngThe Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Behavioral Health has launched the statewide Below the Surface campaign to reach teens navigating academic and social pressures; bullying and harassment; depression and anxiety; family instability; identifying as LGBTQ+; and more. The goal is to raise teens’ awareness of Colorado’s Crisis Text Line - a free, confidential text line that connects youth with trained counselors, 24/7. Anyone who finds themselves feeling like there is nowhere to turn when emotions and thoughts are churning just “below the surface” can text “TALK” to 38255.

The Below the Surface campaign was created in 2017 in response to a wave of teen suicides in Colorado Springs. It was developed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Colorado Springs and the Design Rangers creative strategy firm in consultation with a youth advisory board who shared their experiences in order to make the campaign truly impactful. The state was so impressed by the campaign’s success, uniqueness and authenticity that it decided to invest in leveraging the group’s work on a statewide basis. 

“The challenges that youth undergo are legitimate, such as relationship problems, school stress, family conflict, substance abuse, and bullying,” said Dr. Robert Werthwein, director of the Office of Behavioral Health. “In addition to that, youth are undergoing numerous physical, social, and emotional changes.”

Colorado continually ranks among the top states in the nation for suicide. Healthy Kids Colorado data show that 14 percent of Colorado youth admit to having made a suicide plan in the last year and eight percent attempted suicide at least once in the last year. 

Below the Surface is a blended marketing campaign based on the stories of real students who themselves have been touched by suicide. It utilizes a mix of digital and print media to reach youth, including a new website (belowthesurfaceco.com), social media, posters, business card-sized “mini cards” and other materials.

“We know that youth who have an adult to go to for help are 3.5 times less likely to attempt suicide. Below the Surface will bolster our efforts to connect with Colorado youth who, unfortunately, may not feel equipped to handle stressful situations or know whom to ask for help,” Werthwein said. 

The text line is managed by Colorado Crisis Services, founded in 2014 in response to the Aurora Theater shooting through the State of Colorado’s initiative, “Strengthening Colorado’s Mental Health System: A Plan to Safeguard All Coloradans.” Its mission is to strengthen Colorado’s mental health system and to provide Coloradans with greater access to behavioral healthcare services as part of a continuum of care, regardless of ability to pay. 

Colorado Crisis Services (1-844-493-TALK): If you or someone you know is in crisis or needs help dealing with one, call this toll-free number 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255 to speak to a trained professional. Chat services are also available from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. daily at coloradocrisisservices.org.