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  • Meredith Waller

World Mental Health Day

Updated: Aug 30

Today is World Mental Health Day, a day designated to increase awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilize efforts in support of mental health. The theme set for this year is “Mental Health for All”, a goal that will require a lot of change in how we view and support mental health as a society. While mental health care needs to improve around the world, the state of Colorado also has room for progress and I want to note a few areas that are important to me.


#1 Addressing Suicide


Colorado regularly ranks in the top 10 for states with the highest rates of suicide. Adolescent suicide rates in Colorado are increasingly concerning, increasing 58% from 2016-2019 and making it the cause of 1 in 5 adolescent deaths. Affecting all age groups, this points to a lack of available support, opportunities for assessment, and resources.While it is unclear what the best approach is to address this huge concern, people in different states and countries are getting innovative. In Switzerland, people who have experienced a suicide attempt have been offered a brief treatment to decrease likelihood of a future suicide attempt or death. New York state is planning to study, and potentially implement, a similar approach. I hope to see Colorado consider options for support and treatment as well.


Resources available today:

National Suicide Hotline: 800-273-8255

Colorado Crisis Line: 844-493-8255

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/


#2 Increasing Mental Health Funding


According to the Denver Post, “Colorado Ranks in the bottom half of states in mental health spending per capita”. In fact, the budget has not changed much since 2008, when budget cuts decreased previous levels of funding. Last year, a nationwide study by the National Council for Behavioral Health highlighted needed improvement in Colorado funding- noting that not only does it fall below the national average, but ranks 4th in the country for client satisfaction. We can simply do better. Improved funding would increase the amount of providers able to offer care, improve facilities, increase access and more.


Ways to get involved today:

Join the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in fighting for policy change and contacting policymakers: https://nami.quorum.us/action_center/

Educate yourself on what mental health policies will be on your ballot: www.vote4mentalhealth.org



#3 Increasing Access


As someone who has worked in multiple mental health care settings, I often hear “I don’t know where to begin” when discussing options like ongoing therapy for loved ones, group support, treatment centers, and psychiatry. It is my opinion that these resources should be readily available and easy to access BEFORE a crisis or significant symptoms arise. Increasing the amount of mental health providers embedded into primary care clinics, schools, senior centers, and community centers can greatly decrease this barrier. This is something that is being discussed and offered in some parts of the state, but that I would love to see increase.


Read about how some organizations are making this change:

https://www.5280.com/2019/12/providers-are-bringing-new-hope-to-colorados-behavioral-health-crisis/

https://www.cpr.org/2020/01/10/students-in-many-parts-of-colorado-can-now-get-mental-health-treatment-without-parental-permission-but-not-in-denver/



In truth, there are many other areas for improvement and this can feel discouraging at times. Yet, I know there are many wonderful non-profits, organizations and community centers throughout Colorado that are working hard to make changes happen every day. Big changes take time and require attention every day of the year. I hope we see positive changes before the next World Mental Health Day and plan to do my part to make that happen.







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Related articles and sources:

https://extras.denverpost.com/mentalillness/index.html

https://www.cpr.org/2019/09/17/the-rate-of-teen-suicide-in-colorado-increased-by-58-percent-in-3-years-making-it-the-cause-of-1-in-5-adolescent-deaths/

https://khn.org/news/among-u-s-states-new-yorks-suicide-rate-is-the-lowest-hows-that/

https://www.mhpcolorado.org/study-highlights-the-need-for-adequate-funding-for-colorados-community-mental-health-centers/