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Lawmakers Debate Bill To Allow Teens To Get Therapy Without Parental Consent

DENVER (CBS4) - A state lawmaker shared the story of her own son's attempted suicide as she urged her colleagues to pass a bill aimed at preventing kids from taking their own lives. Suicide is the leading cause of death in kids ages 10-14 in Colorado.

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(credit: CBS)

"I get a call from the school that my son has attempted suicide, and I need to come to the school right away. He was 9 years old," Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet said.

She says she's lucky her son got the help he needed, but too many Colorado kids, she says, are dying because they don't get help. Lack of confidentiality, Michaelson Jenet says, is a big barrier to help.

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Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet (credit: CBS)

"Cause why should I talk to you when the first thing you're going to do, especially if I talk about my mom, is call my mom and tell my mom exactly what I said," she explained.

She's introduced a bill with Rep. Dylan Roberts that would allow kids as young as 12 years old to receive therapy without their parents permission. Right now, they have to be 15 years old.

"Some might say that by giving this right to kids, you're taking away the right of a parent. No, you're saving a life that needs help," 13-year-old Teagan Ferguson told a House committee.

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Teagan Ferguson (credit: CBS)

She says sometimes parents are the problem. She cried as she told the story of a friend.

"She was sitting on the floor crying with her hands around her neck. She was ready to take her life. I quickly stopped her. She told me it was because of her parents."

But parents like Lisa Miller say if they aren't aware there is a problem, they can't help.

"Isolation is the key to suicide. Community is what prevents it."

The Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado is also concerned about open-ended therapy without parental notification.

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"Maybe a child really does have depression. Well, those parents may not know what the signs and symptoms are and what the risk factors are for suicide."

Michaelson Jenet and Roberts agreed to amend the bill to limit visits to three times before parents are notified and allows therapists to contact parents at any time.

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"We need to give our youth the opportunity to have confidential conversations. That does not mean keeping parents out of the mix," Michaelson Jenet said.

Suicide is especially high in rural Colorado. Roberts is from Eagle County where, he says, the suicide rate is twice the state's average.

Testimony ran so long that the committee delayed a vote on the amendment and the bill.


Robbie's Hope Foundation 

An anonymous way for students, parents, school staff and community members to report concerns regarding their safety or the safety of others.

The Trevor Project
Crisis prevention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ+ youth

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals

Mobile Crisis Services, Denver Health
24/7 service that provides mental health support to residents of the city and county of Denver and to Mental Health Center of Denver consumers during and after a crisis 

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