In 2009, Rise Against Suicide started as the Second Wind Fund of Boulder County, an affiliate of the Denver nonprofit with the same name. In 2011, they became their own 501(c)(3) and in 2020, they changed their name to Rise Against Suicide which was influenced by two factors. The first reason was they saw the opportunity to have more clarity around their name after conducting research within the community. The second reason was tied to the beginning of the pandemic; children were becoming more isolated while schools were shut down. Jenna Clinchard, Executive Director, shares, “Since suicide has such a stigma, we wanted to name it and not have shame about it and talk about suicide to let kids know that it is ok to talk about it.”
Rise Against Suicide’s mission is to break the financial and social barriers to mental health so that all youth have the same access to health care. They specifically focus on serving uninsured and under insured youth who are experiencing suicidal ideation. “Our belief is that all kids deserve mental health care. They shouldn’t sacrifice mental healthcare because they don’t have insurance,” shares Jenna. In addition, she says, “We are in a mental health crisis right now. Our youngest participant is 4 years old, and we serve children up to 19 years old. Suicide does not discriminate, it touches everyone.”
Last year, Rise Against Suicide served 142 young people and three quarters of the way through their current fiscal year, they have served 270 children. “We don’t have enough resources in our community to serve all the young people who need them.” The young people that are referred to Rise Against Suicide can be seen within 72 hours and they have a staff member who can do a suicidal risk assessment within 24 hours of a referral.
Rise Against Suicide has a roster of therapists who are required to be licensed and insured through the state and have at least three years of experience working with youth. Jenna shares, “Most of our therapists have their own private practice and then they determine with us how many young people they can see.” Recently they have been able to add four therapists that only see Rise Against Suicide children and teens, and they are looking at how to bring on more. “The community of therapists has shown incredible support for Rise Against Suicide even buying Christmas gifts for some of the children whose families couldn’t afford them.” Rise Against Suicide serves all children in the geographic area of Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley school districts.
Their programming is purposely one dimensional and they are expanding their reach by working with more partners and community organizations for referrals. This includes Clinica Family Health, the Core Program, Longmont Youth Center, Out Boulder County, the Point, and Boulder Community Health among many others. This ability to accept referrals from so many community organizations is a big next step for Rise Against Suicide. When Jenna started as Executive Director, it was the school districts and colleges who were providing referrals. “When Covid happened, we needed to make sure we had as many connections to young people as we could so they could be supported. Our next phase of growth is focused on more referral sources so we can meet the young people where they are at in the community,” said Jenna.
After working in the corporate world for twenty plus years, Jenna was approached with the opportunity to take over Rise Against Suicide’s Executive Director role in 2019. Jenna shared, “This is what I had been waiting for my whole life, to do this work.” She also connected personally to the mission of the organization since her now 21-year-old daughter had come to her when she was 15 and shared her desire to die by suicide. “We were able to find her the help she needed and through that experience, I realized that I wanted to make sure all kids had that access to help when they most needed it. That’s why this work is so near and dear to my heart.” Now her daughter is thriving because she received the mental healthcare she needed. “If we can meet these kids where they are at in the moment statistics show there is a better chance that they won’t die by suicide,” said Jenna.
Rise Against Suicide continues to recruit and need therapists. They are also updating their referral management system to support their increased service demand. They just hosted a successful Emerge 5k fundraiser in early May and have another fundraiser, the Holiday Star program, that runs from November to January that allows businesses and community members to give the gift of mental health. Donations help to offset the $1100 per child cost for those who use Rise Against Suicide’s provided services. Community volunteers are also needed to support these efforts. Lastly, Jenna wanted to make sure we shared, “If you know of a child who is struggling with suicidal ideation we are here to help, and you are not alone. We know it feels lonely, but you are not alone.” Uninsured and under insured youth 12 and older as well as parents can contact Rise Against Suicide at (720) 212-7527 for the support they need.