Editor’s note: The Colorado Department of Human Services Office of Behavioral Health administers Colorado crisis services. The department was incorrectly identified in the original posting of this story.
Second Wind Fund of Boulder County is holding a virtual Emerge 5K on May 3 to raise money for youth suicide prevention. Second Wind is a nonprofit providing mental health treatment to at-risk youth.
Andi Jason, who sits on the organization’s Board of Directors, said Second Wind is more important now than ever.
“Our mission is even more critical in this coronavirus time of disconnection,” Jason said. “Our main fundraiser of the year is our Emerge 5K race. … Due to COVID-19, we cannot hold that event in its original form but we didn’t want to give it up entirely.”
In March, the the Colorado Department of Human Services Office of Behavioral Health reported a nearly 50% increase in calls and texts to its crisis hotline compared to 2019. The hotline staff estimated 60% of calls in April were regarding the coronavirus.
With the money it earns from fundraisers like the Emerge 5K, SWFBC matches uninsured or underinsured children and teens who are at risk for suicide with local, licensed therapists, helping cover the cost of therapy.
“We believe that financial and social barriers should not stand in the way of children receiving great mental health therapy,” said Jenna Clinchard, executive director of Second Wind.
SWFBC started in 2009 in response to the suicides of four students at a Jefferson County High School within nine months. Following the suicides, community members Jeff Lamontagne, Dr. Marjorie Laird and Scott Fletcher organized a walk-run event to show solidarity with the school. The money raised was used to provide professional counseling to other at-risk youths.
Since then, Second Wind has helped 821 youths, 464 of which were seen in the past three years. In the past five and a half years, the group funded 3,451 therapy sessions.
Mary Campbell is a counselor at Lafayette’s Peak to Peak Charter School. She became a board member five years ago after seeing the influence Second Wind had on her students.
“I have seen my students who have accessed SWFBC counseling really change and become such healthier young people,” Campbell said. “It is truly inspiring.”
In her work, Campbell has seen Second Wind begin community-wide discussions about suicide, saying it is making “a profound difference” in the Boulder community.
“There are so many reasons why students don’t get help,” Campbell said. “SWFBC provides free counseling and actually eliminates the barriers of transportation, cost, limited family support, after school limitations and brings the counselors to the schools to support students.”
Campbell said one of the biggest things she wants the community to take away from the 5K is awareness. She hopes the event starts conversations within families about the importance of mental health, especially today as the COVID-19 pandemic puts increased pressure on Second Wind and youth mental health.
Though SWFBC therapists continue to work with the patients remotely with telehealth, most patients are referred through school counselors. With school moved online, youths may not get the help they need.
“Our mission has always been a matter of life and death but in these days of isolation, we need your help in supporting our kids more than ever,” Clinchard said. “They’re stuck at home, many with just the voices in their heads to guide them through extremely trying times. Parents losing jobs, friends and family getting sick, away from their friend support groups, no routine and no clear end in sight.”
Clinchard said she encourages Boulder Valley parents and students to email their school counselors to do an assessment and connect students to Second Wind if needed. She also encourages community members to participate in the 5K to help fund SWFBC’s efforts.
Participants can complete the 5K in any way they want, like running, biking or stair climbing. The event is free to register and donation opportunities are available.
The 5K runs all day, from midnight to midnight, and participants can post photos of themselves during it with the EMERGE 5K app. Prizes are available for participants, including for furthest 5K from the Boulder Reservoir, best costume, pictures with Subarus and Second Wind sponsor logos during the 5K.
“We want this year especially to make an event that is fun for everyone. We could all use a little fun right now,” Jason said. “By building our virtual community with this 5K, we can help those who struggle know that they are not alone.”
In 2010, Jason lost her 16-year-old son, Jesse, to suicide. After Jesse’s memorial service, Jason spoke to all of the teens there and had them promise out loud that they would ask for help or to come to her if they were struggling. After this, Jason and her husband completed a suicide intervention training and Jason entered the world of suicide prevention advocacy.
In addition to being on the SWFBC board, Jason is a member of the depression awareness and suicide prevention group HOPE Coalition of Boulder County. She is also the program director for the nonprofit depression and suicide peer education group Colie’s Closet.
“I can’t bring my son back. But I can try to make a difference,” Jason said. “You can, too.”
If you go
What: Virtual Emerge Family 5K Run/Walk
When: May 3, midnight to midnight
Where: At home
More information: www.swfbc.org