COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — In 2015, 169 people died by suicide in El Paso County, and 18 of those were under the age of 18. Teens in the community are now taking an active role to try to bring that number down, reaching out to other teens who may be going through some tough times.
Project Conatus is the teen board of Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention, and they are currently working with local schools to produce artwork that focuses on the light in dark situations.
“I have known a lot of people who have lost their lives to suicide and people who right now are considering it, and it’s so, so hard to watch people in that dark of a place that they don’t think there’s any other way out,” said Tirzah Petropulos.
Petropulos is a young artist participating in the project who completed a piece of work called “The Beauty in the Storm.”
At a young age, she has already learned a valuable lesson.
“It’s such a learning experience of getting to that point where you can say, ‘I’m going through these really hard things but there’s a reason for it, there’s a plan behind it. I can grow from this and become a better person,'” said Petropulos.
But for some, that lesson comes too late.
“Being able to see that positivity and being able to see the good things in the darkness isn’t something that just comes naturally to people,” said Petropulos.
Suicide is the most preventable form of death, yet it is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 44-year-olds in El Paso County.
“I think its really hard to say what’s causing higher numbers,” said Marlena Schlattmann, a social work intern for Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention. “There’s a lot of different factors that we could point at but we really at this point do not know. That is why we are here.”
Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention teaches people of all ages how to prevent suicide and also provides free support for family members and friends after a loved one attempts or completes suicide.
They are now teaming up with local teens through Project Conatus to reach a population that is sometimes hard to get through to.
“Conatus is a Latin word that means striving, endeavor. It’s really about continuing to exist as a way to move forward,” said Schlattmann.
The teen board provided a unique perspective to a complicated issue.
“Sometimes you don’t realize it’s happening until it’s already happened,” said Zoe Atkinson, a teen board member.
The artwork will be on display at the Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention Center on Tejon Street December 2 as part of the First Friday Artwalk in Colorado Springs.
Project Conatus is also looking for more teen board members.>> Learn more and Give! at indygive.com.