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May, Mental Health and Hope

May brings warm nights, the bloom of new flowers and a sense of hope for what the summer will bring.

Appropriately, May also marks Mental Health Month — a time to reflect on the challenges that we and our loved ones face, to commit to improving mental health services and supports and to share stories of hope.

Whether it’s managing our own struggles, talking through a hardship with a friend or navigating the mental health system with a loved one, mental health impacts all of us. And while these can be tough issues, we know that maintaining balanced mental health is critical to overall well-being.

The Colorado Health Foundation and the Colorado Health Institute today released a new Colorado Health Report Card Data Spotlight on mental health.

Mental Health in Colorado: Working to Close the Disparity Gap finds that a growing percentage of Colorado’s adults are dealing with poor mental health: 13.7 percent in 2015, up from 11.8 percent in 2007. And more Coloradans — about 442,000 in 2015 — are not getting the mental health care they need.

The report finds that while we all experience mental health challenges at some point in our lives, some Coloradans struggle more than others. The data show stark disparities among groups based on their financial situation, gender, race/ethnicity and sexual orientation.

  • Nearly 35 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual Coloradans reported eight or more days of poor mental health in the previous month, more than three times the rate of heterosexual Coloradans.
  • And though poor mental health does not vary much by race and ethnicity, blacks and Hispanics are less likely receive treatment for a mental health concern.
  • Data also show that geography matters when it comes to mental health with rural Coloradans dying by suicide at a higher rate than their urban-dwelling peers.

Along with presenting what we know about the state of mental health in Colorado, the report highlights efforts to improve access to services for those in need.

 Colorado’s State Innovation Model (SIM) is focused on bringing mental health services into primary care offices. In its third year of operation, the Colorado Crisis Services offers phone, text and in-person support for those in need. Other strategies include insurance benefits, public health prevention efforts and programs and recommendations from the Office of Suicide Prevention.

Start off your own observance of mental health month by reading the new Mental Health Data Spotlight here.

Watch this blog over the month of May for weekly mental health-related blogs. I’ve spent most of 2016 immersed in mental health-related projects and look forward to sharing what I’ve learned. Up next – my takeaways from the 29th Annual Research and Policy Conference on Child, Adolescent and Young Adult Behavioral Health.