Do you know someone among the 20%?

Perhaps you are a parent of an adolescent who is living with a mental health condition.  Or you are concerned about the health and wellness of a nephew, grandchild, or one of your child’s friends.  Or you are a teacher concerned about your students.  If so, you are not alone.

It is estimated that nationally 1 in 5 youth between the ages of 13 and 18 live with a mental health condition.  The most common mental health disorders experienced by adolescents and adults are depression and anxiety.  Some of these mental health challenges are mild and may only last for a short period, and others may last a lifetime.

About 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness start by the age of 14, and 75% start by the age of 24.  In the Healthy Kids Colorado survey administered to students last fall, 24% of Telluride High School students in grades 9-12 reported feeling sad or hopeless for more than two weeks within the past 12 months, and 12% seriously considered suicide in the past year. Building community awareness of these conditions and their impact on youth is a first and vital step to ensuring sufficient resources are provided to care for our youth population.

Often individuals living with a mental illness do not seek the help they need. The average delay between the onset of symptoms and getting treatment is 8 to 10 years.  This is due to a number of factors, including a reluctance by individuals to seek help  (due to stigma, or fear of judgement), the lack of insurance coverage (despite laws requiring that health insurance covers behavioral health care in the same way as physical health care (known as “parity laws”)), a lack of providers, and the lack of knowledge about mental health.

For youth, the consequences of not seeking treatment can be devastating.  More than one-third of youth with a mental illness drop out of school. 70% of youth in the juvenile justice system have a mental illness. Suicide is the leading cause of death for youth aged 10-24.

Members of the LGBTQ community are 2 or more times as likely as heterosexual individuals to have a mental health condition.  LQBTQ youth are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual youth and are far more likely to develop a substance use disorder.  For members of our Latinx population, rates of treatment are lower than our Anglo residents. Language barriers, lower rates of health insurance, stigma, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and a host of other factors contribute to these disparities.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In May, if you know of someone struggling with a mental illness or a substance use disorder, please help them access the resources we have locally.  Therapists are available through the Center for Mental Health and at local clinics. You can also refer them to TCHNetwork’s Resource Directory that includes searchable resources in Montrose, Delta, Ouray, and San Miguel counties: https://tchnetworkdirectory.org/ 

Crisis hotlines are available for individuals suffering a mental health crisis or disorder and for people trying to help friends or loved ones dealing with a mental health disorder.  The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 800-273-TALK (8255), and the Rocky Mountain Crisis Line is 970-252-6220. You can also text HOME to 741741 and be connected to a Crisis Counselor who will support you via text.

Tri-County Health Network offers courses in both Adult and Youth Mental Health First Aid to help train everyone in our community to help those developing a mental health disorder or experiencing a mental health crisis.  In addition, we partner with the local school districts in Telluride, Norwood and the West End to offer teletherapy.  Teletherapy allows students to access licensed behavioral health therapists whom may not live in the area, thus expanding the number and variety of providers available to our students.  Contact us at 970-708-7096 for more information or to sign up for a Mental Health First Aid training.

In May, let’s all commit to asking one person how they are doing today. We can commit to be a trusted adult in the life of our youth and support them in their journey to adulthood. We can recognize Mental Health Awareness Month by sharing our own experiences with mental illness, talking openly about the challenges we may be facing in our lives, and supporting those who are struggling in our community. Let’s give hope to individuals who are struggling–encourage them to seek professional help, promote self-care, listen to people’s stories without judgment, and give reassurance.  Most importantly, never feel that you walk alone or that you must hide in the shadows.  Encourage mental wellness in all you do, in your family, among friends, and in our community.

-Paul Reich, Behavioral Health Programs Manager, pmbh@tchnetwork.org