May 4, 2021

By: Jan Wondra

Originally appeared in the Ark Valley Voice

In a virtual proclamation ceremony on Monday, a group of the state’s health and government officials marked the state’s commitment to programs supporting mental health; an awareness program that this year they are calling “Healthier Minds across the lifespan”.

Each year, Mental Health Colorado hosts Mental Health Proclamation Day at the Capitol to declare May as Mental Health Month, with this year’s theme, following a tumultuous year of COVID-19 pandemic, focused on healing together.

The group was led by Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera, who read the proclamation. Mental Health Colorado President & CEO Vincent Atchity, the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council, the Mental Health Center of Denver, and the Colorado Department of Human Services came together to emphasize the importance of this month, at particular point in time.

“Good health is treating the whole person, their mind, their body and spirit….. we’ve lived with the pandemic, its side effects, an economic downturn,” said Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera. “It is time to expand access to mental health care… for a full recovery of mind, body, and spirit.”

“For many, the crisis we’ve experienced this year has driven home the reality that mental health is central  — we’re all experiencing this together. There are different phases at the same time….get through this, together….said Atchity. “The current wave of mental health challenges precedes an even greater wave of mental health needs … since our founding in 1953 focused on those with mental health issues we have advocated that each of us have the responsivity to support others.”

“The spotlight is on mental health after a really difficult year. More than one million Coloradans live with a diagnosed mental health condition — one in five,” said Dr. Michelle Barnes of the Colorado Dept. of Human Services. “During that pandemic that has risen about 32 percent.  Chances are, someone you know probably needs mental health help. One of the best things you can do to maintain mental health is keep up connections.”

Last September, the state set up a taskforce to create a blueprint for behavioral healthcare reform … “Frankly, we need a new behavioral health system,” she added. “We are personally committed to these efforts, [making them] accessible, and affordable for all Colorado

“I believe we are strong and we have the power to heal together,” said the CEO of Colorado Behavioral Council Doyle Forrestal.

“This may be the May where awareness goes broad, the pandemic has impacted all of us – our well being,” said President and CEO of Mental Health Centers of Denver Dr. Carl Clark, ” Our brains do a lot of things, but three big things: We think, we feel, we do stuff. What happens with stress, that’s what treatment really is – those areas where we can have trouble. I wish the Colorado Crisis line wasn’t called a crisis line — it’s for people with just a little bit of trouble too.”

“We call it mental health month and people immediately think of mental illness, but we all should pay attention to our mental health,” concluded Clark.

Those needing support can call the free and confidential Colorado Crisis line, at 1-844-493-8255.