Raising Awareness: Hazel Mannery on Suicide Prevention

Meara Sauer, Junior Reporter

[Disclaimer: The following story includes mentions of suicide.]

The “Suicide Belt”–a vertical strip of land in the U.S. starting at Montana and ending at Arizona and New Mexico– is responsible for the rising number of suicides in the past few years. Colorado is labeled the ninth highest in the country for its shocking number of
suicides, ranging from teens to elders. The large number is believed to be influenced by the high altitude and also because of Colorado’s large military base. In 2016, it reached a new record of 1,156 suicides which outnumbered deaths due to homicide, breast cancer and car accidents.

Hazel Mannery (12) is no stranger to losing someone to suicide. She lost her best friend– a Manitou student named Andrew Uveges– on May 19, 2016, and now she’s involved with different suicide prevention groups to help raise awareness. One such group is Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention’s (PPSP) Teen Board, otherwise known as Deep Roots. “I got involved with Deep Roots not too long after [Andrew] had died,” said Mannery, who has now been a part of the board for two years.

“The mission of the Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention Teen Advisory Board is to provide the
adolescent perspective [of suicide]. With programs and policy shaped by the input and perspective from local teens,” said Mannery.

She has been in invited to Teen Think Tank which was a research group put on by PPSP to focus on teen mental illnesses and suicide. She has also worked with PPSP’s “Children Left
Behind”: a support group for those who have lost someone to suicide. The program is divided into two different groups, one for older teens aging from 13 to 19 and another for children aged 9 to 12.

“We do panels for parents, teachers and for people who are wondering about the reasons
behind the extremely high suicide rate in El Paso County. We also talk about ‘What we wish you knew’ statements telling parents about how we are feeling,” said Mannery.

PPSP doesn’t just do support groups and panels, though; they also have art shows, races, coffee
houses and study groups for kids who need help. They have numerous affordable counselors, as well as people who are always willing to help those in need.

“[In El Paso County], the suicide rate is extremely high. [But] everywhere it’s not uncommon to have at least one suicide at your school, so I think it’s important to try and change that and that’s what we are trying to achieve,” Mannery said.

PPSP’s main goal is to drop the suicide rate by 20% by 2024. With multiple support groups for
all ages, panels that inform others, affordable and accessible help and other activities that spread awareness about suicide and mental illnesses. The group tries to reach out to everyone no matter their circumstances and age.

“Suicide and mental illnesses are stigmatized. That’s because of how they’ve always been portrayed in the media from the beginning, but that’s all of what we’re trying to do. I mean, suicide isn’t the only problem in the world, but I think that would be a big step to solving this one problem,” said Mannery.