Card opens communication lines

Mental Health Center launches campaign against depression

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— In a world where instant messaging and cell phone texting seem second nature to most high school students, it's hard to believe communication still is a problem for youths.

This is the case, however, for many teenagers who suffer from depression. In an effort to help teens reach out, Steamboat Mental Health Center's REPS (Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide) is teaming up with the Yellow Ribbon project to launch a valley wide campaign to raise awareness about depression and suicide prevention.

"Depression is a biological condition," Steamboat Mental Health Center representative Sara Ross said. "It's like diabetes - depression won't simply go away or get better on its own."

Though mood swings are common during the developmental teenage years, depression is a continued and prolonged feeling of sadness that inhibits a teen from normal daily function. Teens who feel depressed may show a change in eating or sleeping habits, have a lack of motivation, and start to perform poorly in school.

"A lot of kids try to hide their depression from their friends, teachers, and families," Steamboat Springs High School counselor Kelle Schmidt said. "They aren't quite sure of how to ask for help. The Yellow Ribbon campaign helps students to be able to do so."

The Yellow Ribbon program is a grassroots initiative developed by Colorado residents Dar and Dale Emme. After losing their son to suicide in 1994, the couple questioned how they could prevent further tragedies. They came up with the idea for the Yellow Ribbon card.

It's a simple concept: the card is a way for teens to ask for help without having to verbalize their depression. According to its Web site, the Yellow Ribbon campaign has distributed more than five million cards since the organization's start in 1994. The cards convey the message that it's okay to need help and that there are many different ways to ask.

"The card is something physical to hold onto to remind kids that there is help, and that people do care," Schmidt said.

Today, Tuesday and Wednesday, the Yellow Ribbon program is visiting five area high schools, including Steamboat Springs High School, Hayden High School, Moffat County High School, Soroco High School, and Lowell Whiteman. Dale and Dar Emme are giving presentations on the Yellow Ribbon campaign and passing out cards to students.

"We're hoping this will get it out there," Schmidt said. "Depression is a problem for many students, and it doesn't have to be kept secret."

Steamboat Springs High School is also expecting to train more than 50 students and school personnel in the Yellow Ribbon campaign. Mental health professionals from the community are also available during the presentations.

"This won't be a one-shot presentation," Ross said. "Hopefully it will allow for continuing dialog between students and the community."

Erin Gleason is a senior at Steamboat Springs High School and an intern at the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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