This is part of a package of stories taking a look at Cherry Creek School District's response to student suicide deaths this year, including policy changes the district has made.
The stories also look at the lives of some of the students who died by suicide this year.
To read the main story and the other pieces, click here.
Suicidal thoughts can be reduced with proper mental health support. If you are in need of mental health help, call Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-8255 — or text TALK to 38255 — to talk to a professional.
On a Sunday afternoon just about a month into this school year, a handful of students sat together in a living room a few blocks from Cherry Creek High School.
But they weren’t cramming for tests: They gathered to continue their push to raise awareness after losing a friend to suicide.
“After Jack passed, a number of his friends called me — and I called a few of them,” said Rick Padilla, father of Creek student Jack Padilla, who died by suicide in February. “They said, 'Mr. Padilla, what can we do?' ”
Under the name “Jackstrong,” the teens meet at Padilla’s home to brainstorm, and in early September, they sat watching the fruition of perhaps their most public effort yet: a set of public service announcement-style videos they contributed to.
“It was kind of scary, but it’s going to be really good,” said Olivia Heichel, a Cherry Creek High sophomore. “It was a lot of sharing our own story. I just shared a lot about losing Jack.”
The rough-cut footage of what would become the PSAs launched Oct. 8 after a collaboration by the Colorado Offices of the Attorney General; Film, Television and Media; and Behavioral Health, along with other local mental health organizations.
The videos feature young people opening up about their struggles with mental health and suicide attempts, sharing information about resources and giving advice to parents.
“I hope that adults or friends can see it and know when their kids are struggling,” Heichel said.
Padilla, the former director of housing in the Denver Office of Economic Development, is now in a role that’s brand new for the City of Denver: suicide prevention administrator. He’s hoping to help reach “teens through teens,” he said.
“We have to say,” Padilla said, “ ‘It’s OK to not be OK.’ ”
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