Youth Spotlight: Saphira Klearman is fighting to save the lives of her peers
Eagle River Youth Coalition
I recently met a 15-year-old woman whose conscious mind cares so much about others that it hurts. All she wants to do is help our community, especially our youth who are experiencing suicide ideation.
Her bravery in confronting these painful issues is inspiring. Meet Battle Mountain High School junior, Saphira Klearman, a caring young person who is determined to save lives.
“You are a wonderful human being who deserves to live,” says Klearman in “If You’re Thinking About Killing Yourself,” a Panic Button resource on YouTube. The short video is one of several, and is a tactic of Project We Care Colorado.
Klearman is the founder of PWCC, a teen-driven, teen-led, state-wide organization focused on decreasing mental health stigma, providing education and advocating for youth. PWCC’s main goal is to make resources available to everyone.
“Stay alive, please,” Klearman implores while looking directly into the camera. Throughout the short video she provides myriad reasons for why staying alive is vital. She also offers suggestions for immediate positive behavioral choices.
If you have two minutes and 21 seconds, it is worth a watch, especially considering that Eagle County is part of a suicide belt that is experiencing record numbers of deaths by suicide. According to the 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (administered by the Eagle River Youth Coalition), 24% of local middle school students have seriously considered suicide.
In addition to founding a youth-centered mental health organization, Klearman is also making her mark in Colorado’s state legislature. The day I met with her for this interview happened to be the same day she introduced Gov. Polis at a Battle Mountain High School Assembly celebrating Vail Health’s announcement to form Eagle Valley Behavioral Health. She was shy and humble when I asked her to describe that moment. Klearman knows Polis through her advocating for Colorado’s HB19-1120.
A few weeks later, I bumped into Klearman at the Eagle County School District’s Wellness Committee meeting. She had been invited to the gathering to provide a youth voice. She was super upbeat and excited to inform me that HB19-1120 was signed by Polis.
The new law “allows a minor 12 years of age or older to seek and obtain psychotherapy services with or without the consent of a minor’s parent or guardian if the mental health professional determines the minor is knowingly and voluntarily seeking the psychotherapy services and the psychotherapy services are clinically necessary.”
Klearman’s next goal is to make sure Rep. Dylan Roberts passes legislation aimed at integrating mental health into K-12 school curriculums. Watch out, she is just getting started.
Hearts on the line
Recalling how far she has come from a dark place not too long ago often crosses her mind. Middle school was rough and rocky when Klearman’s happiness was drastically altered.
“I learned the world is full of injustice and anti-Semitism,” she said. “I spoke out and received backlash. I found Eagle River Youth Coalition’s Youth Leadership Council, which helped me be a part of the change. And it was just the beginning.”
When I asked her who she looks up to, she responded by describing individuals who have a certain mindset.
“The people who are passionate, open, driven and kind — those are the people who inspire me — people who put their hearts on the line,” she said. “No one should have to feel alone. No one should have to feel sad. It bothers me that in the past three years I do not have a friend who has not struggled with their mental health. It’s not right.”
Klearman works daily to right this wrong, whether presenting at TedXYouth, introducing the governor, or speaking to a room full of decision makers at Eagle County’s Total Health Alliance. Her sense of urgency is contagious and emotional. Join Team Saphira, who I think is a wonderful human being, and help our community stay alive.
Carol Johnson is the Community Education Manager for the Eagle River Youth Coalition and the facilitator for Eat Chat Parent.