These are heartbreaking times for our state. Just as we reflect on a school tragedy from 20 years ago and honor the memory of all its victims, we are reminded in the present day of ongoing challenges by yet another threat to our safety. Our sorrow and our dread continue.
In this latest instance, we’re thankful to our first responders, school officials and understanding parents and guardians who acted quickly to secure the safety of our students, teachers and school administrators. In light of these recent and past events, Mental Health Colorado shares in our community’s collective sorrow, worry and insistence on meaningful change.
In the spirit of that change, we must continue purposeful, outcomes-focused conversations about how to best meet our state’s mental health needs. With urgency and determination, we must come together to develop and implement support systems to help prevent the most vulnerable among us from reaching a point where their individual pain drives them to harm others. We know the key elements of those systems: Prevention, early intervention and access to treatment are necessary to building and maintaining mentally healthy communities.
It’s important to remember that mental illness itself is not the culprit in these tragic occurrences. The data make it clear that, more often than not, people with mental illness are the victims of violence, and not the perpetrators. And when there is violence involving individuals with mental illness, lack of support systems is the root cause. With that knowledge, our mandate and our responsibility are clear: We can no longer shirk the responsibility to address the underlying causes of mental illness and substance use disorders and to rebuild our broken mental health system.
If, during these particularly challenging times of remembrance and sorrow, you feel in need of immediate help, call Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255. You can also visit Mental Health Colorado’s help page for more resources.