(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Colorado has one of the nation’s highest suicide rates, a number that has been rising for decades. A gym in Colorado Springs believes it can reduce this alarming increase by starting with the mental health of kids.

More than a thousand Coloradans every year take their own lives and data shows the state is at a 15-year high.

Building mental health confidence for 'COVID babies' and more
Courtesy of FOX21’s reporter Austin Sack

It’s not your typical gym! KidStrong is a child development training facility that’s helping kids discover their inner superpowers.

“I’m strong, I am brave, I can do this,” 8-year-old Damien said.

That’s KidStrong’s mantra, ‘I am Strong, I am Brave and I can do this.’ Chris Patton is the man behind the idea and he’s helping build future-ready kids.

“We are a unique program,” Patton, Owner of KidStrong Colorado Springs said.

KidStrong focuses on the physical development of Southern Colorado’s youngest community members, but this gym also helps build brain and character development.

“Each month we have new focuses around those three pillars (physical, brain, and character development) so it helps keep it fresh for the kids, but that way they have really specific milestones that are developmentally appropriate for them every month to work on,” Patton said.

Anyone that’s walking up to 11 years old is allowed in this gym. Ezra’s two years old and his mom says his confidence has taken a major leap.

“He was a COVID-19 baby so there wasn’t a lot of person-to-person contacts and so this class has definitely helped and opened that up for him and just getting that hands-on experience,” Krystal Duchene said.

Children’s Hospital Colorado reports a 57% increase in children coming to the emergency department for a mental health crisis from 2019 to 2022. KidStrong looks to drastically reduce that number.

“The success stories we’re hearing do not get old,” Patton explained. “Hearing that kiddos have confidence, they’ve been able to make friends now, they’re socializing better.”

Each class has up to 15 kids and there are always two coaches out on the mat. The coaches help accelerate milestones and KidStrong creates an opportunity for the coaches to do something where they’re making a difference.

“Ezra comes out on the floor every week with more independence, confidence, and a positive mindset than perhaps some of my 11-year-olds,” Coach Edward at KidStrong said.

Not everyone gets an award in every class, but when you put in the work it pays off, even for the parents.

“There’s no doubt you might see elements of KidStrong within other programs, but I think a program that brings together the physical and the character development for these kiddos makes our program really one of a kind,” Patton said.

KidStrong’s curriculum is based on the latest in developmental science. Programs are created by experts in the fields of pediatric occupational therapy, child development, sports physiology, and physical education.

If you would like to learn more about the programs offered at KidStrong, visit their website.