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Preventing Tragedies

Strategies for Saving Lives Among Colorado Youth

The pandemic changed how we understand mental health –– months of isolation, grief and uncertainty transformed our approach to this critical piece of our health and wellbeing. But despite this shift, some truths remain: mental health is invisible, social barriers persist and financial limitations prevent access to lifesaving care. Fortunately, there is a successful model for providing no-cost therapy to young people vulnerable to suicide. 

Rise Against Suicide has created an innovative approach to connecting adolescents with mental health support when and where they need it. No waitlists. No doctor referrals. No cost. 

“We keep the intake questions to the bare minimum so there’s no intimidation. We don’t need a doctor’s note, we don’t ask about citizenship, insurance status, or financials. We only have two pieces of paperwork that need to be signed and if a young person is 12 or older they can sign for themselves,” explains Jenna Clinchard, executive director at Rise. 

It can be intimidating for youths to seek mental health support when they are contemplating suicide or self-harm, and that’s why the team of 35 licensed therapists that partner with Rise meet adolescents within 24-72 hours, wherever kids feel safest, so there is never a waitlist. Rise’s Program Director, Bill Heaston, has also prioritized better serving diverse youth by partnering with bicultural and bilingual BIPOC therapists to increase comfort in seeking help. 

“I have never had a therapist who was the same race as me. It helps me feel like I can share things with him and I won’t have to explain why I feel the way I do.” 

BVSD Young Person who received Rise services.                   

Boulder Valley School District works directly with Rise so youths in elementary through high school can get the support they need without having to leave school. “75% of our young people are referred to us through school counselors but parents, guardians and kiddos are also welcome to reach out to us directly,” Clinchard shares.

The reality is that counselors are inundated right now. The days of a school counselor’s job primarily focusing on guiding students through what classes to take and how to graduate are over –– they are now on the frontlines of a mental and behavioral health crisis. To help this influx, Rise created an online system where counselors can refer at-risk students in 60 seconds. 

In our current global mental health crisis, feeling safe and grounded takes consistent, intentional work. Increasing economic instability, continued social isolation, worsening climate disasters, conflict and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic contribute to the continued emotional dysregulation of adults, leaving kids and young adults without adequate support while they too experience the chaotic state of the world. 

Since 2021, Rise has seen a 134% increase in referrals and 136% increase in sessions, with referrals continuing to increase year after year, showing the growing need for this accessible and life-saving mental health care. 

One of the ways Rise eliminates barriers for therapists to better serve the community is by paying them directly. "In Colorado, we have seen many therapists leave the mental health field due to increased caseload, insurance billing challenges and the inability to receive fair wages.  Rise allows our therapists to choose how many young people they want to serve, pays our therapists directly, and also pays a fair rate for our geographic area.  We know how important their work is, we see the lives it saves, so Rise ensures we are meeting our therapist's need too,” says Clinchard.

“We are primarily funded by individuals in the community,” Clinchard explains. “In the past year or two, we’ve seen those smaller donations decrease which is understandable because we’re all experiencing the impact of inflation. People need that $25 a month to pay for groceries, utility bills, and rent,” explains Clinchard.

Because Rise relies on individual donations over state or federal funding, increased community support is necessary to meet the growing demand for mental health services. The increasing referrals show the urgency and importance of expanding Rise’s mission in Colorado. The need is present and the only barrier to Rise’s expansion is funding.

Rise hosts two annual fundraising events, their Emerge 5k in May, and their Holiday Star Program which runs from November through January. 

“I've had people reach out from Denver and Larimer County asking if we can bring our services to their school district and we’d like to expand but it is all about the fundraising," says Clinchard. "If we can get that support, we can get the therapists, we can develop relationships with the school districts and we can make sure that these young people are never turned away, never put on a waitlist, They get the help they need within 24-72 hours and the kids or their families will never see a bill.”

“My 15-year-old son was deeply depressed and suicidal. Having limited financial resources, we were desperate to keep him safe and find outgoing therapy we could pay for without becoming homeless. We called over 30 resources trying to find help for him, and finally through his school, found RISE. Words cannot express the relief and hope Rise offered at a time we so desperately needed help.”

- Rise Parent [story shortened for print]

Serving Boulder, Longmont, and surrounding areas, Rise Against Suicide stands as a testament to the transformative power of community-driven mental health initiatives. As we navigate the “new normal” of the pandemic, investing in accessible and inclusive mental health care is not just a moral imperative but a pragmatic necessity. Join us in supporting Rise’s mission to provide every young life the compassionate and accessible care they need to thrive. 

Community Partners that refer youths to Rise Against Suicide:



Blue Sky Bridge

Boulder Community Health

Children's Hospital


C.O.R.E. Program 

Longmont Youth Center 


"Rise Against Suicide provides free mental health services to suicidal youth by breaking down financial and social barriers.

Our brains are capable of some weird thoughts... If yours get scary, talk to a therapist at Rise Against Suicide."