Suicide Prevention

man at podium giving presentationDeaths by suicide are increasing at an alarming rate in the City and County of Denver, as well as across the state and nation. We must start talking about suicide to bring it out of the darkness and into the light, where we can address it head on. As a community, we must break the stigma around mental health challenges and normalize the need for care. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among those ages 10 to 20 in Denver and in the state. Colorado's suicide rate is among the top 10 highest in the nation. The rate of death by suicide in Denver increased by roughly 25% between 2017 and 2018.

Youth PSA

Mayor Hancock PSA

DDPHE's suicide prevention response seeks to enhance and support the City and County of Denver's Road to Wellness Framework(PDF, 12MB) and Empower Denver Strategic Plan(PDF, 6MB) to improve behavioral health for all residents. Our ultimate goal is suicide prevention, which begins with striving to remove barriers, improve systems, and advocate for change, while promoting equity in the care system. We aim to develop a coordinated approach that potentially could be expanded throughout the state of Colorado.

Gap Analysis and Initiatives 

An overall effort to understand and improve the City of Denver’s efforts to combat suicide was kicked off by an extensive two-phase Gap Analysis. In Phase I, various city departments were engaged to better understand suicide prevention efforts already in place within the city. Phase II included an analysis of suicide prevention and awareness programming in two sister cities, with similar demographics to Denver.

The Gap Analysis identified four key initiatives:

We Got This Initiative

In 2022, the City and County of Denver will host its first mental health summit, We Got This! This youth-focused day — by youth, for youth — will comprise informational sessions and a keynote motivational speaker.

The objective is to bring together teens and young adults from across the state to raise the awareness of the stressors teens face today; provide opportunities to explore a variety of coping mechanisms; bring awareness to the need for accessible mental health services; and to launch a Teen Mental Health Awareness Campaign to destigmatize the conversation around mental health and elevate the discussion within the community.  


  • Educate youth on how to live mentally healthy
  • Provide internal and external resources (e.g., coping skills, therapy options, suicide prevention resources, community help)
  • Help youth build relationships with their peers and find common humanity in others
  • Offer youth hope and inspiration
  • Provide students and community members access to meaningful information and resources to support youth suicide prevention in our community. 

Anti-Stigma Campaign

This stigma-reduction campaign aims to reduce stigma related to behavioral health conditions and substance misuse. Stigma acts as a powerful barrier to early intervention and access to behavioral health treatment and support. The populations of focus fall into five overlapping sub-groups: individuals with mental health conditions, individuals with substance use disorders, individuals who use substances without a diagnosis, individuals who have attempted suicide, and individuals who have experienced suicidal ideation.

OBJECTIVES: Remove stigma as a barrier to accessing services; develop baselines of knowledge, attitudes and beliefs (KAB) that result in stigma associated with behavioral health conditions in Denver; and change the KAB in Denver to increase empathetic responses and decrease adverse responses to behavioral health conditions.

Hope Squad

Hope Squad is an impactful prevention strategy developed in Utah. The peer-to-peer mentor program is closely tied to QPR: Question, Persuade, Refer (offered by our DenverStrong Program) and works with mental health partners to train students to spot warning signs of suicide and refer their classmates to care. The program is informed by regular surveys of participants, as well as industry best practices and local suicide prevention experts. The curriculum has been developed in partnership with a local mental health agency, the University of Utah, and Brigham Young University.

A partnership between Denver Public Schools (DPS) and Denver Public Health and Environment (DDPHE) aims to further increase awareness and skills related to suicide prevention programming and efforts across student, staff, parent, and community audiences within three (3) school communities. This partnership aims to support the coordination of district and city efforts to challenge mental health stigma and increase access to school-based and community resources in the area of suicide prevention through utilization of the Hope Squad program. The primary goals of the Hope Squad Program Denver Pilot program are:

  1. To coordinate a 3-5-year pilot program for implementation and evaluation of the Hope Squad in three DPS middle schools, where program effectiveness will be monitored and gauged over the course of the implementation phase.
  2. To foster school-community collaboration efforts.
  3. To collaborate in the coordination efforts aimed at sustaining the growth of current suicide prevention efforts.

OBJECTIVES: Suicide prevention efforts must reflect a community effort across all relevant stakeholders. The current project looks to supplement current school-based suicide prevention efforts while growing programing efforts at all levels of stakeholder groups within the three (3) selected middle-school communities.

Inter-Agency Taskforce

With the recent trend of increases in suicides in Denver — especially among youth cohorts — agencies and organizations throughout the Denver Metro Area have developed their own suicide prevention initiatives.

A Gap Analysis was done to take a holistic look at whether the resources dedicated to this issue are enough. Phase I Gap Analysis considered the type of prevention efforts currently utilized by various agencies, along with their successes and challenges. Phase II Gap Analysis identified a new preventative model that requires less intervention and postvention (a response employed in the aftermath of suicide that aims to facilitate healing and reduce negative effects).

OBJECTIVES: The lack of meaningful coordination between organizations and agencies is the key finding from the Phase I Gap Analysis. Based on internal research, collaboration stood out as a significant hurdle. Although there are meaningful efforts taking place across the state, there is often a lack of transparency which can result in duplicative work. The goal is to collaborate across sectors and develop a stronger, more efficient approach to preventing suicide. 


Additional Information

Warning Signs

Often, family, friends and even co-workers are the first to recognize the warning signs of suicide and can take the first step toward helping someone at risk. Warning signs include:

  • Talking about feeling trapped
  • Talking about being in unbearable pain or a burden to others
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Acting anxious or agitated, or behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or expressing feelings of being isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

If someone you know is exhibiting any of these signs, please reach out for help.  If you’re thinking about harming yourself, tell a trusted friend or family member.

Risk Factors

Some of the factors that could increase the risk of suicide are:

  • Prior suicide attempts
  • Misuse of alcohol or other drugs
  • Mental disorders, especially depression
  • Chronic disease and disability
  • Access to lethal objects, such as a firearm or medication
  • Knowing someone who died by suicide
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of access to behavioral health care

Stress from prejudice and discrimination is also a known risk factor for suicide attempts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA+) youth.



Addressing Youth Suicide

Part 1

Part 2