I am writing today to publicly show my appreciation for Tri-County Health Network’s efforts to bring awareness to a marginalized and often uncomfortable topic: our children’s mental health.

On Oct. 17 TCHNetwork hosted an event at the Palm Theater, featuring Sue Klebold, mental health advocate and parent of Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine High School shooters. Kathy Morris, safety and security coordinator for the Durango 9-R School District and Sarah Davidon, research director at Mental Health Colorado also presented.

Dr. Davidon spoke about the statistics statewide around teen mental health and suicide, and provided a look at Mental Health Colorado’s School Mental Health Toolkit, a resource developed to help schools and communities identify needs and resources to support mental wellness in schools.

Ms. Morris’ presentation focused on “Safe2Tell,” an anonymous reporting tool that provides students, teachers and community members a means to report potential threats and concerns they may have about the well-being of a classmate to schools and local law enforcement. “Safe2Tell” is up and running here in our Telluride schools.

Ms. Klebold detailed her son’s involvement as one of the two shooters at Columbine High School in 1999.  She relayed to the audience that she thought all was well with Dylan and that she had missed the signs of an ongoing mental health problem. Ms. Klebold provided some heartbreaking insight as to what she has learned since the shooting — and how, had she received more education around mental illness and was keener to the signs of her son’s struggles, things could have turned out differently.

There was an array of community members in attendance; parents, students, nurses and law enforcement. I want to specifically recognize and applaud Nucla High School’s principal, Clint Wyultka, and West End Pubic Schools’ Superintendent Mike Epright, who transported 20-plus Nucla High School students from the west end to Telluride to allow the students to attend the event to learn more about a subject oftentimes thought of as too sensitive to discuss.

Attending this powerful event is just one of the ways that the West End Public School District is prioritizing mental health. Earlier this year, their entire staff (administrators, kitchen staff, custodians, teachers, coaches and bus drivers) were trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid. This unique program, sponsored again by THCNetwork, empowers everyone to recognize and respond to signs of a mental illness or a youth in crisis. Thank you to the West End Public School District for taking steps to help keep their community and their children safe.

And thank you to TCHNetwork, for hosting this event and for working every day to ensure our community understands that mental health matters.

Elaine Demas