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Mental health

Time to Talk: A shared story across the metro area

Mental illness sparks community conversation, collaboration


Editor's Note: This report on the state of mental health and the barriers that can prevent needed care, is the first in an ongoing series that looks at how mental health challenges and illnesses affect our communities. The next part will explore how social media is affecting our children’s emotional intelligence and self-esteem and their ability to cope with conflict. Subsequent focuses will include suicide; mental health challenges among seniors, families, employers and jails; and how substance and alcohol abuse exacerbates the issue.

One in five adults nationally and in Colorado lives with a mental illness. The number is the same for young people 13 to 18 years old.

Mental health experts have found no one is immune from society’s fast-paced, competitive, technology-driven environment. Stressors of work, pressure of academics, the emotional unrest caused by social media — combined with the stigma associated with mental illness and high costs of insurance and treatment — make it difficult to achieve a positive state of mental health, they say.

“We just need to normalize that all of us have small or large, or a different variety of, behavioral health problems,” said Dr. Kaan Ozbayrak, chief medical officer at AllHealth Network, which provides behavioral health services to Douglas and Arapahoe counties.

“It is as normal as having diabetes or high blood pressure. We should be talking about it more.”
Kelly Kast with the Jefferson Center for Public Health, serving Jefferson County, agrees.

“Our health is intrinsically tied to mental health — a state of well-being involving our thoughts, emotions and behaviors that supports our ability to participate in life and accomplish our goals,” Kast said.

Among mental illnesses, two are most commonly diagnosed: Nearly 42 million Americans live with anxiety disorders, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reports. About 16 million adults live with major depression, also the leading cause of disability worldwide. NAMI calculates that depression costs $193.2 billion in lost earnings every year.

In Colorado, the number of suicides jumped from 910 cases in 2011 to 1,058 in 2014. Colorado’s suicide rate that year was 19.4 per 100,000 residents, the seventh highest in the country, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reports.
Mental illness doesn’t have to be fatal, said Andrew Romanoff, president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado, an organization that advocates for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of mental health and substance-use disorders.

“We are trying to help more people understand that mental illness is not a character flaw or a figment of imagination, it’s a medical condition,” Romanoff said. “Mental illness doesn’t have to be a death sentence — it’s treatable.”health, they say.

More: The cost of mental health treatment

More: The stigma of mental illness and how to fight it

More: "If people are in crisis, they should't have to wait"



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