Long before the behavioral health crisis reached the public spotlight, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment saw a need for more public outreach to help parents and teens. In …
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Long before the behavioral health crisis reached the public spotlight, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment saw a need for more public outreach to help parents and teens.
In collaboration with the Colorado Department of Human Services, the state health department unveiled the Forward Together program in 2020.
As state health-care providers are reporting drastic increases in mental health emergencies among the state’s adolescents, Forward Together works to empower adults to support mental health for teens and youth.
Lena Heilmann, the youth suicide prevention coordinator for the Colorado Department of Health, said Forward Together aims to help parents and their children become more connected.
The website, forwardtogetherco.com, is separated into two sections, one for parents and the other for youth. The site encourages discussion, providing coping tools and ideas.
Heilmann said for those who feel suicidal, there is help and a way to get past the current crisis.
“When we are talking about suicide, it is a complex issue,” Heilmann said. “There is no one reason. We know that connectiveness is the most powerful, empowering tool. We want to empower young people to identify a situation and make sure they seek support from a trusted adult.”
Forward Together is not about having a one-size-fits-all approach. There are links for teens feeling alone, having problems with parents, struggling to fit in, in need of encouragement, or feeling depressed.
After clicking on the area that more closely ties with how a person is feeling, Forward Together provides a variety of tools to help the struggling adolescent cope, deal, and plan to get past dark days.
Heilmann said the Forward Together program is a good tool because it is so interactive.
“This program provides support with problem-solving and helping to understand and make sense of feelings,” she said. “We are working to empower young people to know who can be trusted and what to think about. In general, supporting young people is critical. We have to identify barriers preventing children from getting access to help that is crucial to getting better.”
For parents, the site provides ideas, conversation starters and resources on topics ranging from hobbies and conflict to substance abuse and mental health.
As with the youth page, parents can find help to deal with specific issues they are seeing in their children. From working to build better relationships to identifying risky behavior, the site provides tools and tips for parents to connect with their children.
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