May is Mental Health Awareness Month
With the pandemic, social unrest, natural disasters and ongoing violence, this has been a difficult year for Coloradans. All of us have endured hardship that has tested our resilience. If you are struggling right now, know that you are not alone.
This May, CDHS and our partners are proud to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, a national movement to raise awareness about mental health, fight stigma and support the estimated 1 million Coloradans with mental health conditions and their families.
Watch the Proclamation Day video!
To kick off Mental Health Awareness Month, we were proud to support the Mental Health Colorado Proclamation Day on Monday, May 3. CDHS Executive Director Michelle Barnes joined advocates and state leaders to talk about ways we can heal together. Watch the recording here and read the proclamation.
What is mental health?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It's just as important as physical health and can be affected by many factors. Family history, trauma, exposure to violence, food and housing insecurity, discrimination, poverty, and other experiences can all play a role in mental health. The good news is that people with mental health conditions can heal and thrive, and there are many ways to support yourself and your loved ones.
About the campaign
Each week, we'll focus on important mental health topics: Infant and Children Mental Health, Youth and Young Adult Mental Health, Mental Health in Rural Communities, and Reforming Mental Health Care. Please share these resources and join the conversation by following CDHS on Facebook. You can also sign up for the Office of Behavioral Health newsletter to keep up with the latest information, events and resources.
It’s important to recognize that mental health affects even the youngest among us. Early experiences in our lives can shape who we become and how we respond to adversity. The good news is that all of us—parents, caretakers and community members—can do a lot to help infants and children up to age 12 develop a strong mental health foundation that will last them throughout their development.
Resources for Parents and Caretakers
As a parent or caretaker, your most important role is to keep your children safe—and that means taking care of yourself, too. If you are feeling anxious, sad or overwhelmed, it’s important to get support early and often. Here are some resources that can help:
- Pregnancy-Related Depression and Anxiety: Nearly 1 in 9 Coloradans who give birth will experience signs and symptoms of depression. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has resources to support you.
- Tough as a Mother: If you are using alcohol or drugs to cope with stress, you are not alone. Support is available so you can be the strongest parent possible.
- Parents Thrive: Connect with relevant information, resources, services, and stories that will support you and your mental health at every step of your parenting journey.
Resources for Infants and Young Children
- Colorado Office of Early Childhood: Learn how you can support your child’s social and emotional development and get connected to state resources.
- 3 Reasons Good Infant Mental Health Matters: Read this fact sheet on the dimensions of infant mental health.
- Colorado Shines: Find licensed childcare providers who are trained in best practices for social and emotional learning.
- Early Learning Colorado: Watch their video series to learn what children typically do throughout childhood and suggestions for how adults can support their development.
Resources for School-Aged Children
- What Is Children’s Mental Health? This CDC resource explains common signs of mental health disorders in children and what treatment can look like.
- Mental Health Activities for Children: The National Federation of Families has compiled several worksheets, videos and and additional activities to spark conversations about mental health.
- Community Behavioral Health Programs: The state offers several programs, including COACT Colorado and the Children and Youth Mental Health Treatment Act (CYMHTA), to support children with significant behavioral health needs and their families.
- Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs: CDPHE offers programs that ensure that children and youth with special health care needs have the opportunity to grow, learn and develop to their highest individual potential.
As children enter their teen and young adult years, they experience a tremendous amount of growth and change. By building up protective factors—things like building relationships with trusted adults, participating in activities, and feeling part of a larger community—youth and young adults can learn to rise above challenges that come their way.
Resources for Parents and Caretakers
- Forward Together for Parents: Read tips and strategies for connecting with your teen.
- CDPHE Office of Suicide Prevention: Suicide is a leading cause of death for Colorado’s youth and young adults. The encouraging news is that there are many effective suicide prevention programs that can bring hope, connectedness, and recovery. Being a trusted adult who validates young people’s identity and emotions can also reduce suicidal despair. Don’t know where to start? Here’s a short guide on talking about suicide with children and youth.
- COACT Colorado: Find information about High Fidelity Wraparound with peer support able in participating counties in Colorado. COACT's wraparound approach can support children, youth with complex behavioral health needs and their families.
Resources for Youth and Young Adults
- Below the Surface: This public awareness campaign connects youth and young adults to text support from the Colorado Crisis Services text line. To text with a trained clinician, text TALK to 38255.
- Forward Together: A movement by youth and for youth in Colorado, Forward Together reminds us that connection is always possible.
- Youth MOVE Colorado Chapter: Youth MOVE Colorado’s vision is to ensure that you are empowered, educated, and given a decision-making role in your own life, as well as in organizations and programs in your community.
- Mental Health Activities for Young Adults: The National Federation of Families has compiled worksheets, videos and additional activities to spark conversations about mental health.
Mental health disorders affect people of all backgrounds, and Coloradans living in rural communities face unique challenges that can complicate their experience. From stress caused by debt, weather events, market prices and how to support the next generation of agriculture, ranchers and farmers can feel overwhelming worry and anxiety. And those living in more isolated communities may struggle to find services close by—or in their native language.
Mental Health Resources for Rural Organizations
Colorado is working with its rural communities to improve service, elevate the conversation and break down barriers to care. Here are some resources that can support you:
- Colorado Crisis Services: Colorado Crisis Services staff are trained to respond to challenges unique to farming and ranching families. The Colorado Department of Agriculture has partnered with Colorado Crisis Services to create custom messaging for rural communities.
- Farm Crisis Center: The National Farmers Union has compiled resources to help farmers through stressful times.
- American Farm Bureau State of Mind: Check out this collection of resources and follow #FarmStateofMind on social media to show your support.
- Colorado AgrAbility Project: This project promotes the success in agriculture for people with disabilities or other physical challenges and their families.
- USDA Farm and Ranch Assistance Network: This network assists farmers and ranchers in times of stress and helps improve behavioral health awareness, literacy, and outcomes for agricultural producers, workers and their families.
- Rural Resilience: As part of its mission to support rural communities, Farm Credit developed training materials focused on mental health and stress management.
- Firearm Suicide Prevention: According to the Colorado Health Institute, half of Colorado’s suicide deaths involved firearms, and firearm ownership tends to be higher in rural areas. This video from CDPHE explains steps you can take to prevent suicide by firearm. Gun owners can lead the way on safety. The National Shooting Sports Foundation recommends temporary off-site storage for firearms when you are concerned about a loved one.
In April 2019, Governor Polis charged the Behavioral Health Task Force (Task Force) to reimagine how the state delivers mental health and substance use care for all Coloradans. It’s this operating word—all—that drives the state’s vision for reform. Guided by a whole-person approach, the state will have a new system that will make services easier to access, help clients navigate options and adapt care to each client’s needs and strengths.
How did we get here?
After hundreds of hours of research, public testimony and discussion, the Task Force released its blueprint for behavioral health reform in September 2020. Governor Polis immediately approved the Task Force’s recommendations and asked the state to begin reform efforts.
What’s the Behavioral Health Administration?
Among almost 150 recommendations, Task Force members voted unanimously to create a new Behavioral Health Administration, or BHA. The BHA will align, coordinate, or integrate state mental health and substance use programs and funding under one government entity, streamlining access to services for Coloradans and reducing bureaucracy for providers.
Work to establish the BHA is already underway. Governor Jared Polis recently signed Colorado House Bill 21-1097, which directs the Colorado Department of Human Services to establish a new Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) by July 2022 and temporarily house it through November 2024. Read the press release and watch the bill signing.
CDHS is also partnering with Health Management Associates, a national health care policy firm, to evaluate how the state could consolidate separate programming and funding streams under the BHA. Working closely with the Governor, Colorado’s Behavioral Health Reform Executive Committee will review and adopt a plan to organize the BHA later this summer. For more information on this project, visit the BHA Change Management webpage.
What else is happening?
- Ensuring Equity is a Cornerstone: We have a clear, moral imperative to provide equitable access, care, and outcomes for the estimated 1 million Coloradans who need behavioral health services. Reducing disparities in Colorado’s behavioral health system will be critical for reform success.
- Addressing the Workforce Shortage: A work group is developing strategies to shore up a high-quality, trained, resourced, culturally responsive and diverse behavioral health professional workforce.
How can I get involved?
Reform efforts benefit from your voice, ideas, questions and contributions. Here's how you can get involved.
- Ranchers Struggle with Access to Mental Health Services as COVID Puts Stress on Rural Communities, People
- May is Mental Health Awareness Month, Colorado State Publications Blog
- CDPHE gives an update on COVID-19, Fox 31
- May is Mental Health Month in Colorado, Fox 31
- Mental Health Awareness Month More Important Than Ever In Post-Pandemic World, CBS 4
- Colorado leaders address mental health and COVID-19 recovery, KKTV
- Colorado leaders advocate for ‘healing together’ during Mental Health Month in May, KRDO
OBH blog posts
Need support? You're not alone.
For help with any mental health, substance use or emotional concern, call Colorado Crisis Services at 844-493-TALK (8255), or text TALK to 38255. Our trained professionals provide free, immediate, and confidential help, 24/7/365. Everyone deserves someone who will listen and care, including you and your loved ones. Learn more at ColoradoCrisisServices.org.