The Green Ribbon Club Grand Valley is set to march Saturday in the hopes of bridging the gap between the mental health resources in the community and those who need them the most.
With spikes in suicide both statewide and nationally, the high school seniors running the nonprofit organization feel the conversation surrounding mental health, particularly in Grand Junction, needs to grow. They say it should be something everybody, young and old, feels comfortable talking about in 2019.
“We want people to know it’s OK to not be OK,” said Palisade High School senior Tatum Menon, one of the organizers with the Green Ribbon Club.
According to the website, the Green Ribbon Club is committed to youth advocacy to destigmatize mental health by encouraging communities to access local public health resources.
The ultimate goal of the organization is to mitigate the rising number of suicides at the local and national level.
The Grand Valley chapter is the only Green Ribbon Club currently in Colorado.
The student-run organization hopes the “Stopping the Stigma Stride” set for 9 a.m. Saturday at Lincoln Park will show the community that it is far better to stand up and talk about the issue together than it is to run away from it.
A study on suicide in Colorado from 2003 to 2017 revealed a trend, seen both statewide and nationally, that suicides are increasing in younger populations.
Menon, along with Grand Junction High School senior Kate Hayde, helped organize the march to address that very issue.
Though there are several areas of mental health awareness that Menon wants to see destigmatized, she said Saturday’s march is meant to specifically shine a light on teen suicides and the mental health illnesses associated with it.
At the march, every person under 18 will wear a mask to show the stigma that prevents them from talking about mental health.
Menon said she hopes the event will help show the Grand Junction and Mesa County community that addressing mental health is no longer something people can be afraid to talk about.
“We’ve experienced it, we’ve seen our friends experience it,” she said. “Peer-to-peer help has proven to be the best (form of intervention).”
A Mesa County Health report shows the rate of suicide deaths per 100,000 in Mesa County exceeded the national average every year from 2009 to 2016 and exceeded the state average every year but one.
The Mesa County suicide rate in 2016 (34.7 per 100,000) was statistically significantly higher compared to the nation (13.4) and the state (20.3).