Cienega counselor Eric Boxley leads a breakout session focused on youth suicide prevention at the April 9th Vail Interfaith Council meeting.

By Paige Vogt

Cienega High School counselor Eric Boxley knows the right conversation could save the life of your friend, child, or neighbor. But when it comes to a topic as difficult as suicide, many people don’t know where to start. That’s why Eric discussed his “safeTALK” training efforts at the most recent Vail Interfaith Council meeting hosted at the Rita Ranch chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 9th. “TALK stands for Tell, Ask, Listen, and Keep them safe,” Eric told council members representing religious organizations within the Vail School District. “You’re in front of your congregation all the time. We want you to know what to do and what to look for.”

Eric was recently appointed as the Vail School District suicide prevention coordinator after his surveys of Cienega freshmen revealed 21 percent of respondents had thought about suicide and 12 percent had attempted suicide. According to Eric, that’s on par with national statistics. Over the last eight years, he has worked to combat those numbers by helping teachers, students – and now religious leaders – navigate a formerly taboo subject.

Pastor David Hook from Christ Lutheran Vail Church recently completed “safeTALK” training and sees immediate applications in his day-to-day work. “My biggest takeaway was don’t be afraid to ask somebody where they are,” he said. “I’d like to build upon it – we’ve talked about doing some sort of program or sermon series on uncomfortable topics like suicide.”

Lan Allen from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is attending an upcoming “safeTALK” training and hopes other Interfaith Council members will do the same. “If we have the entire religious community focused on this problem, it creates synergy,” he said. “It’s important to know that the faith-based community can provide support to the school. Knowing that relationship can exist will take down a lot of barriers.”

Since implementing “safeTALK,” Eric has seen more students bring up issues and ask for help. But there’s more work to be done. “This is a state, national, and global issue,” he said. “We can tackle it in those layers with the help of our faith-based community. We’re open to taking it to everyone.”

To learn about bringing “safeTALK” training to your work, school, or place of worship, contact Eric Boxley at For more resources and support, visit, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).

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