`In This Together’ initiative helps build social closeness

Originally appeared on the Westminster Window

Mental Health Colorado program helps Coloradans connect

The coronavirus pandemic has driven home the message that our physical and mental health are not separate.

To combat the loneliness, isolation and stress, and to get through the pandemic with healthier minds, Mental Health Colorado has started “In This Together” as a way for Coloradans to connect with people and just to chat, according to a news release.

Residents can sign up on Mental Health Colorado’s website, and they will receive a supportive call just for the therapeutic sake of old-fashioned conversation.

“As a society, we shouldn’t have settled on the term `social distancing,’ which is the exact opposite of what’s best for our mental health right now,” Mental Health Colorado President and CEO Vincent Atchity said in the news release. “What we need is social closeness, solidarity, and support. In This Together is a way to create a little bit of social contact, all over the state, with a friendly phone call.”

In This Together is for everyone, including older adults living alone, people who just recovered from a surgery, young people living in remote parts of the state, and new parents trying to put workable routines in place. When people listen to and support each other, they feel and do better managing their way through challenges and have a better feeling for what it means to be strong and united as a community, the release says.

The shame of talking about mental health has taken a notable shift during this pandemic. It is not as uncommon now to ask a coworker or neighbor about their mental health or to FaceTime someone just to admit you’re feeling lonely or anxious. This is one positive outcome of the pandemic.

Atchity hopes these behaviors will continue long after the threat of the virus is gone.

“People don’t have to go through this, or any, hard time alone,” Atchity said in the news release. “We need to be increasingly understanding and compassionate with ourselves and others when it comes to our mental health. Creating healthier minds is a cultural shift and an ongoing work in progress. And everybody can do it.”

The purpose of In This Together is to provide social connectedness by phone, not to provide mental health services. Those who are more seriously concerned about their mental health should call the Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255.

Experts suggest that the impact of loneliness and isolation on our health is as detrimental as smoking or obesity. Anxiety is higher than usual worldwide due to the economic and health impacts of COVID-19. Our communities must be prepared to deal with a secondary pandemic of mental health and substance use concerns, the release said.

Many are predicting that the curve of infections will precede a curve of mental health needs. With a revised 2020 policy platform addressing pandemic response and recovery, Mental Health Colorado aims to flatten the latter curve.

“There are many uncertainties right now, but what we do know is that all Coloradans — and everyone in the world — now have a much keener understanding of the vital way in which our mental and our physical health are connected,” Atchity said in the release.

To sign up, visit mentalhealthcolorado.org/in-this-together.