BEE Heard: Tribal student’s mental health and substance use prevention

Photo Credit: SAMHSA

Like so many other schools across the country, our Ignacio, Bayfield, and Durango students will be heading back to school to restart their education journey. This will present challenges balancing social and educational experiences with new safety procedures – whether there are in-school classes, online classes, or a mixture of both.

In this article, we will be talking about suicide prevention and substance use prevention while your student(s) is entering this new world of education during this pandemic.

Suicide Prevention with Students

Many schools that have already welcomed students back into the classroom in-person or online have noticed an increase in suicide ideation and suicide screenings with the students. According to new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four people aged 18 to 24 seriously contemplated suicide in June. And for younger students, according to the Center for Health Journalism, youth who were confined at home due to the pandemic had elevated rates of depression and anxiety.

As parents and guardians, our ability to balance our work life, social life, and of course our children’s life is going to be interesting, to say the least. One thing is for sure, our children are our priority and we want to make sure they are safe in and out of school. We recognize that they too have been affected directly and indirectly by this pandemic and they too are experiencing loss, grief, anxiousness about new procedures, or the outside world.

Schools and parents are finding that, for the mental health of our children, we must allow them space, outlets, and opportunities to socialize and talk about how they are feeling. Here are some tips and ways you can support your child while they return to school:

Help children/youth develop self-esteem in order to feel good about themselves. Show your child love and acceptance; praise them, recognize their efforts and nurture their confidence; ask them questions about their activities. Unconditional love goes a long way.

Be a good listener and respect their feelings. Remember: it is fine for children/youth to feel sad and angry. Encourage them to talk about how they feel. Keep communication flowing. Help your child find someone to talk with if they don’t want to talk with you.

Create a safe, positive home environment. Provide time for physical activities, play and family activities. Be aware of your child/youth’s time on the screen (TV, Internet, gaming devices). Be careful when discussing serious family concerns such as finances, illnesses, etc. around your child who can worry about these things. Establish healthy habits/routines for eating, sleeping, exercise, learning and down time.

Help your child/youth socialize safely through social media and other online technologies. Socializing plays an important role in regulating your mood. Communication helps kids feel less alone and relieves some of the stress that results from being away from friends.

With difficult situations, help your child/youth problem solve. Teach your child how to relax when they are feeling upset (calm breathing, some alone time, take a walk). Discuss possible solutions or ideas for improving a situation.

Children need parents and/or guardians to be consistent, honest and caring. Commit to strengthening family ties and being trustworthy.

Talk one on one with your student about their feelings. It is important to debrief with your student after the school day. Don’t be afraid to keep asking “Do you want to talk about anything?”

Create a Self-Care Plan with your child.

What will I do for self-care? Stick to the basics and add certain self-care activities to your calendar. Some examples are: getting enough sleep, exercising as appropriate for your health, eating healthfully, spending time with loved ones, using relaxation exercises, and practicing meditation.

Who can I call at any time? Identify people in your life who you trust and can talk to about the good and bad that may happen.

Who can I reach out to if I need more help? Identify who you can call if you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or sad. May be loved ones, a coach or teacher, or mental health professional.

If you need assistance with how to talk to your child about suicide, please call one of the crisis lines listed at the end of this article. You can always reach out to your local Behavioral Health program for advice and support.

Free Suicide Prevention Training

Want to learn what to do if someone you know is having a mental health crisis? Contact Precious Collins 970-306-8131 to sign up for the Question, Persuade, Refer online training (1 hour). Great tool and learning opportunity for you and your family.

  • #EndMentalHealthStigma
  • #MentalHealth
  • #CultureIsPrevention
  • #DearNativeYouth
  • #WeRNative

Adults Need Help Too

According to, in the month of June there were considerable elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with the pandemic and 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use. Younger adults, racial/ethnic minorities, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers reported having experienced disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use and elevated suicidal ideation. Please reach out to any of the resources listed to ask questions and help make a plan to overcome mental health struggles.

Want to help and be a part of the change?

Looking for community members and youth to join the Prevention Coalition tasked to reduce youth substance usage, eliminate mental health stigma, and start the discussion around suicide and prevention.

Upcoming Prevention Coalition Meeting

We are going virtual! Be on the lookout for our virtual Prevention Coalition Meeting flyers and invites. Contact Precious Collins, Native Connections Program Coordinator for more information 970-563-2487.

Upcoming Training

FREE online Suicide Prevention Training- Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) for Southern Ute Tribe Employees and Southern Ute Tribal members and their family. Let’s all learn the warning signs and what to do if someone is experiencing a crisis. Please contact Precious Collins at 970-306-8131 or email to sign up.


  • So. Ute Health Center: Behavior Health 69 Capote Dr., Ignacio, CO, 970-563-4581. For local Native Americans. Call to schedule a counseling appointment.
  • So. Ute Social Services: 116 Capote Dr., Ignacio, CO, 970-563-2331 for local Native Americans needing assistance with child welfare needs and family support.
  • St. Ignatius Catholic Church: Pastor Cesar Arras, 14826 CO-172, Ignacio, CO 970-563-4241.
  • Ignacio Community Church: Pastor Randall Haynes 405 Browning Ave., Ignacio, CO (currently located inside ELHI), 970-759-3633.
  • Second Wind Fund of the Four Corners: Believes that every child and youth at risk of suicide should have access to the mental health treatment they need. We match children and youth at risk for suicide with licensed therapists in their communities, 720-962-0706.
  • Women’s Resource Center: Creates personal, social and professional growth opportunities for all women in La Plata County, 970-247-1242.


  • Colorado Crisis Line: 844-493-8255 or Text “TALK” to 38255. You’ll immediately be put in contact with a trained counselor, ready to text with you about anything.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Has both an online chat and 24/7 phone line at 1-800-273-8255 if you are thinking of suicide or need help for a loved one.
  • The Trevor Project:
    Seeks to serve LGBT youth, has a 24/7 suicide prevention line at 866-488-7386.
To top