Teller County Suicide Awareness Symposium

The first annual symposium was held January 2023 
in Woodland Park

Participants increased their understanding of suicide, its prevalence and the risk factors for specific populations, and acquired tools for prevention, assessment and intervention.


The Youth Documentary Academy (YDA) has been helping Colorado Springs youth speak directly to their peers through the art of film. The program trains young people in directing and producing their own documentary films on topics they feel are important. Students have handled tough topics like race, colorism, disability, and teen suicide, through character-driven stories.      

Film 1: “Under the Wire” created by Madison Legg (Cheyenne Mountain High School) at the age of 16. Mady was adopted from Cambodia when she was 16 months old. When her brother, Jacob, also an adoptee (from Guatemala), attempted suicide, Mady began investigating the issue. She uncovered an epidemic of attempts and completed suicides by teenagers in the area. She decided to make a highly personal film exploring the emotional dynamics of her brother’s story. Won an Emmy from the Heartland chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in the Children/Youth/Teen Program/Special category.

Film 2: “Surviving” created by Sorin Santos (Manitou Springs High School) to tell his story of his childhood which consisted of several illnesses that resulted in heart and brain surgery all before the age of 10. The trauma of these events led to debilitating depression and anxiety in high school, including forced admission to a psychiatric hospital. Sorin’s film intimately recounts these events while revealing his own personal battle to fight against mental illness

2023 Presentations

Flipping the Script

Learn about how Teller County can utilize its rural values and culture as opportunities to prevent suicide.
Eli Varney, LPC MA

How to Start the Conversation

What are the warning signs, how to recognize "invitations", and find out what to look for, listen for, and say.
Cass Walton, Executive Director, PPSP

Help Them Stay

Filling the gaps of suicide prevention

Veterans Suicide Prevention Program

Bringing together the existing Veterans support and transition resources in El Paso and Teller County to align efforts at Suicide Prevention.

In Our Own Voice

A three-part presentation with two people who have experience with suicide share their stories.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Zero Suicide Project

A way to improve suicide care within health and behavioral health systems.
Robin Schawe, LPC, LAC

Postvention, Loss, and Grief

Kathy Sparnins, Executive Director, Voices of Grief
Annie Durham, Suicide Loss Survivor, CCVSD

Emotional Resilience

Roberta Renfro, LPC, NCC
Lynn Shull, Certified Professional Coach
Dr. Ann Rush, Co-Founder of Sc4i

Suicide Awareness Symposium Planning Committee Members

Janet Stoddard
Dedicated Community Member 

Ashlee Shields
Suicide Prevention Project Coordinator
Community Health Partnership

Kathy Sparnins
Executive Director-Voices of Grief

Roberta Renfro
Manager of Community Relations and Outreach-Diversus Health

Annie Durham
Suicide Loss Survivor & CTE Director-CCVSD

Eli Varney
LPC-The Family Care Center

Michelle Wolff
Director-Teller County Department of Public Health and Environment

Dr. Ann Rush
Co-Founder and Development Director-Status Code 4 Inc.

Megan Billesbach
Community Liaison-Colorado Community Health Alliance

Thank You to Our Sponsors!



About the Mental Health Alliance

The Teller County Mental Health Alliance (The Alliance) is a multi-organization collaborative supporting the mental health needs of the community.

The Alliance began in 2018 as a grassroots effort in response to growing community concerns about mental and behavioral health in the community.

By pooling individual resources and establishing a shared agenda, The Alliance orchestrates a coordinated set of actions to foster a resilient and healthy community.

We’d love to hear from you! Reach out to TCMHA with non-emergency  comments or questions.

Contact Teller County Mental Health Alliance

Please use the form below if you have any questions or comments for The Alliance. We look forward to hearing from you! You will receive a response within 2 business days.

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