2023 CHAS: Mental Health

Mental health challenges did not abate as the pandemic eased.

May 8, 2024

Coloradans are struggling with their mental health. More than one in four people reported poor mental health in 2023. That’s the highest number the CHAS has ever measured, but statistically unchanged from 2021. 

The CHAS defines poor mental health as having eight or more days of poor mental health in the previous month.

Age. Younger adults reported the most serious mental health challenges, with more than a third of respondents between ages 18-50 in poor mental health. But children’s mental health struggles continued to grow. Some 16.5% of children ages 5-17 had poor mental health.

Disparities. Black or African American Coloradans reported mental health challenges at a slightly lower rate than white Coloradans (21.2% and 25.0%, respectively). Hispanic or Latino Coloradans reported slightly higher mental health challenges than both groups (30.0%). LGBTQ+ Coloradans had one of the starkest disparities, with 54.4% reporting poor mental health compared with 27.8% of straight and cisgender Coloradans.

Access. Colorado has put serious effort into improving access to mental health care. But the need for care continued to overwhelm the system. Some 880,000 Coloradans, or 17.0%, said they could not get the mental health care they needed in 2023. That’s the highest ever in the CHAS and more than double the rate since 2017.

More than half the people who could not get care (57.2%) said they were unable to get an appointment when they needed it.

Cost and stigma concerns improve. Colorado saw progress on both fronts in 2023. The state has been working on these challenges for years. The cost of care is no longer the top reason people did not get the help they needed. This drop could be the result of expanded health coverage and stronger laws on mental health benefits that insurance companies must provide.

Coloradans also seem to be getting more comfortable talking about mental health. Less than one in four people who did not get care (22.7%) said it was because they were worried someone might find out they had a problem. This was about the same as 2021, but the reason had exceeded 30% in 2019. State and local health agencies have sponsored several campaigns to minimize the stigma of talking about mental health.