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Tri-County Health Department is working with a coalition of partner organizations on a new public health campaign called “Let’s Talk Colorado.” The campaign spotlights the stigma around mental illness so that the people who need this type of help are more likely to seek it.
“We need to get to the place where we understand that mental health challenges are like physical health challenges,” said John M. Douglas, Jr., MD, Executive Director of Tri-County Health Department. “When someone breaks their leg we don’t expect them to ‘just snap out of it’ or think they somehow brought it on themselves. Like physical health conditions, mental health conditions need treatment and the people who confront them need our support.”
The campaign launching in May, Mental Health Month, urges everyone to talk openly about mental health issues and to talk with people who are impacted by mental illness. One in five people struggle with a mental health condition. In fact, people with mental health challenges like anxiety, depression or eating disorders are as common as silver cars.
Let’s Talk Colorado includes a web site, www.LetsTalkCO.org, that includes ideas on how talk about mental illness, a toolkit of resources including a video, mental health stigma presentation, fliers and a newsletter article. The materials, created after a series of focus groups, draw from an award-winning campaign from Minnesota called www.MakeItOK.org.
People who need immediate support due to a mental health crisis should contact, or have a family member or friend contact, Colorado Crisis Services at 1.844.493.TALK(8255). This agency has trained counselors who are available 24/7/365 to work with persons in crisis and the people supporting them.
“As a coalition we’ve decided to stay away from ‘do say this’ and ‘don’t say that’ messaging because our focus groups told us that more than what you say, it’s important that you are sincere and present,” Douglas said. “We heard from people with mental illness, ‘I need to be able to believe the person I’m talking to really cares about their conversation with me and that they are not just being polite.’”
The campaign stresses that talking about mental illness and a person’s mental health struggles can “save a life,” so it’s worth dealing with some awkwardness or embarrassment at not knowing what to say. The effort also emphasizes that treatment for mental health issues does help in most instances, so persons with mental health symptoms, like anxiety or trouble sleeping, should be urged to see a physician or therapist.
In addition to TCHD, Let’s Talk Colorado was created by a coalition of organizations including:
9Health Fair, Aurora Mental Health Center, Boulder County Public Health, Broomfield Public Health, Centura/Denver South Group, Children’s Hospital Colorado, Clinica Family Health, ClinicNet, Community Reach Center, Denver Public Health, Doctors Care, Douglas County Government, Jefferson Center for Mental Health, Jefferson County Public Health, Mental Health Center of Denver, Metro Community Provider Network, SCL Health, Sheridan Health Services, Tri-County Health Department and West Pines Behavioral Health.