The Secret to Suicide Prevention? Latina Teens Figured That Out 20 Years Ago.

Almost 10 years before the CDC named it, 36 Latina young women identified connectedness as a key factor in suicide prevention. Through their work and that of Dr. Lydia Prado, previous vice president of Child & Family services at WellPower, the Voz y Corazón suicide prevention program was born.

The Power of Art and Community

WellPower’s Voz y Corazón can be a space of magic and transformation. Michelle Tijerina, program manager for Voz y Corazón and long-time mentor with the program, told a story of one young man whose story still brings happy tears to her eyes:

“This young man came from a very traditional Latino family, and he was gay. He was terrified to come out to his family for fear of their disapproval, judgement and disappointment in him. When he first joined Voz y Corazón in high school, he was actively suicidal.

“Through Voz, he uncovered his talent as an incredibly gifted artist. During his first nine months in the program, he also formed a deep connection with a mentor. This mentor showed up to his major life events, celebrated him and helped him open up about his identity in safe ways.

“At one point, this young man was invited to showcase his art work. To my and everyone’s happy surprise, his father attended the event. He was able to see his son’s talent and told him just how proud he was. It was a major turning point in their relationship.

“When I last spoke to the young man, his life had continued to get even better. He went to college and became a successful artist, his relationship with his father is strong and he even has a boyfriend now.”

Stories like this are part of what makes Voz y Corazón so special.

JJ* and Fizzy have both been active participants in the program since high school. As adults in their 20s, they both recognize that what Voz y Corazón offers is incredibly unique.

“There’s a sense of joy and lightness to Voz y Corazón, while also holding space for support and whatever you need to talk about,” said JJ. “You can share what you feel comfortable with, or even nothing at all. When I first joined, I was a nervous high school sophomore who didn’t know what to expect. It’s become one of the spaces in my life where I can just be me, exactly as I am, without expectations or pressure. I still join the groups online!”

“It’s been a great support system through some tough times for me,” added Fizzy. “I love knowing I have people in my corner, especially during times in my life when I’ve felt otherwise alone. I’ve been able to meet people from the same community as me while practicing all sorts of different art styles, too. It’s really a place that combines art and connection with people who are actively rooting for you and supporting you.”

Connection, Creativity and Consistency

In 2004, Dr. Prado set out to find ways to bring suicide prevention programming to Denver’s youth. After a lot of research, she found that young Latina women were the group at highest risk of attempted suicide among young people. She went into the community and hosted a group of Latina teenagers to discuss what kind of program would be most beneficial for them in preventing suicide.

Using a suicide prevention training designed for youth and armed with statistics, the young women identified that spaces for connection and creativity would fill gaps caused by loneliness and isolation. They wanted the group to be stress-free and unstructured, with opportunities to do art and express creativity.

They also understood the importance of consistency. The girls appreciated having trustworthy adult mentors that showed up predictably and as promised.

Using this knowledge, Dr. Prado and the young women created Voz y Corazón.

Now, with 17 groups across the Denver metro area, Voz y Corazón is going strong.  Groups meet weekly and are led by a staff artist and an adult mentor trained in suicide prevention for teens and young adults.

Groups meet in schools, community centers and online, and participation is always optional.

20 Years and Counting

This year, Voz y Corazón celebrated its 20th anniversary and Michelle Tijerina couldn’t be more proud.

“We’ve served over 8,000 young people in the 20 years we’ve been around,” she said. “All of them were given opportunities to connect. Suicide prevention is about connection and coping skills, working hand in hand. We’ve helped so many people who are in all sorts of varying stages of life and treatment. It’s also so easy to join – anyone between the ages of 10 and 24 is welcome. You don’t have to be part of a specific community, ethnicity or even in any treatment at all. Just get in touch and we’ll find you a group.”

To learn more about the program, visit To join, or if you have any questions, contact Michelle Tijerina at or (720) 620-1435.

*names have been changed