By Steven Bonifazi
(DENVER, Colo.) Coloradans have many options for dealing with mental health issues whenever they may need as Mental Health Awareness Month ends next Monday.
According to non-profit organization Mental Health America, the month of May has been nationally celebrated as Mental Health Awareness Month since 1949. The month honors mental health through increasing awareness and lessening stigma on mental illnesses by teaching people wellness in addition to showing appreciation for professionals working in the behavior health field.
A press release from Mental Health Colorado, a non-governmental organization in Denver, states that Colorado has one of the highest suicide rates nation-wide, but more so among youth, with studies showing that the majority of suicide attempts take place within three hours or less of someone having suicidal thoughts. Fortunately, legislation was passed by Congress in October of last year to approve a proposal that would desingate 988 as the national sucidue prevention crisis hotline number, similar to 911 being desingated as a natnional emergency number.
“We need to equip Colorado with the right tools to fight our high suicide rates and mental health crises,” said Moe Keller, Director of Advocacy at Mental Health Colorado in the press release. “9-8-8 is a memorable three-digit number that will provide access to trained suicide prevention crisis counselors who will just be seconds away. It’s indisputable, this number will save lives.”
Issues regarding mental health have skyrocketed across the nation and in Colorado specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a report from The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, an American non-profit organization, showing that 37.6 percent of Colorado adults reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder in October of last year, compared to 37.7 percent of adults in the country reporting the same.
The report also showed that of those Coloradan adults who reported dealing with symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder, 28 percent had reported that they needed counseling or therapy, but had not received it in the previous four weeks of reporting, 5.5 percent above the national average of 22.5 percent.
The Denver Post reports that Colorado has the third-highest prevalence of mental illnesses among adults, with the state additionally having the nation's third-highest percentage of adults who consider suicide. Research institute, the Colorado Health Institute, began surveying Coloradans on behavioral health and access to resources in 2009, finding that Colorado's mental health has worsened since then, with 870,000 residents reporting being in significant distress in 2019.
The survey also showed that approximately 15.3 percent of residents reported that they had poor mental health in 2019, compared to 11.8 percent in 2017. On April 26, the Colorado Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted to further Senate Bill 21-239, which would provide a total of $1 million of funding to the Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) to support the mental health of unemployed Coloradans.
Furthermore, the bill would work to hire and train staff to aid Colordans in understanding behavioral health benefits, how to access health services and how to obtain refferals for services including housing and good support.
“We know people who have lost employment during the pandemic are experiencing mental health impacts, and it can be especially hard to navigate what behavioral health resources are available to you while you’re unemployed,” said OBH Director Robert Werthwein in a press release. “Studies have shown that job loss can trigger significant mental health concerns, including suicidal thoughts. By ensuring unemployed Coloradans can connect to behavioral health benefits and services, this bill will provide more support among those who need it most in our state.”
Additionally, there are many mental health advocates and organizations in Colorado that are dedicated to mental health and wellness. Over the next week, many are holding mental health events to end Mental Health Awareness Month on a high note.
Non-profit organization, Mental Health Partners, is hosting a Facebook Livestreamed event titled Finding A Joy Focus in Difficult Times Tuesday from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. to help people stay mentally strong in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the aftermath of the Boulder King Soopers shooting that took place on March 22.
Local Denver-based book store, Tatted Cover, is hosting a virtual LGBTQ+ Mental Health Awareness panel discussion with Colorado's LGBT Mental Health, Behavioral Health and Substance Use Disorder Nonprofit initiative, Envision:You Thursday at 5:30 p.m. to discuss mental health among the LGBTQ+ community.
Panelists include local LGBTQ+ community leaders including Marvyn Allen, Syah Taylor, RP Whitmore-Bard and Quana Madison in addition to Envision:You co-founder Steven Haden, discussing why the LGBTQ+ community deals with higher rates of mental health issues as well as how to support their health and wellness. The event is free of charge and will be live-streamed via Zoom.
In partnership with Children's Hospital Colorado and NFL player Ben Garland, there will be a Friday Night Lights Friday at 6pm at Empower Field at Mile High Stadium to benefit Children's Hospital Colorado's Pediatric Mental Health Institute. Children, teens and their families will join Garland and a few other players from the Denver Broncos in climbing stairs at the stadium.
Families will be joined by Miles the Mascot, Denver Bronco Cheerleaders and Thunder the horse for to take part in a photo booth, giveaways and resources for obtaining mental strength.
A list of a few local mental health resources for Coloradans are as follows:
- Colorado Crisis Line - Free, confidential and professional conversations with mental health professionals. Walk-in center locations are open as well. Call 1-844-493-8255, chat online or text TALK to 38255.
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention - The AFSP Colorado Chapter consists of volunteers working to prevent suicide statewide in addition to offering support to those in the community who have felt the impact of suicide.
- Second Wind Fund - Improves access and delivery of suicide care for students as well as provides families treatment services for children and youth at risk for suicide by overcoming financial and transportation barriers.
- Mental Health Partners - Expert Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Care through compassionate care teams offering same-day support is available.
- Colorado LADDERS - A referral resource for information and services for prevention, treatment and recovery from substance use and mental health conditions.
For more information regarding finding mental health help in Colorado, click here.