Sydney Chapin is 19. She grew up in Highlands Ranch and graduated from Rock Canyon High School. She will tell you she is privileged: She has had a comfortable life, materially.
But over her young life, she also has struggled with anxiety and depression. And because she was raised in a generally affluent community, she believes a preconceived notion exists that her mental health should be easily fixed.
“Because you have the money to fix things, it’s kind of expected that it’s all OK,” said Chapin, who today is managing her mental health well. But it’s not about physical things, she reminds us. “It’s completely about my mind.”
Sydney and other men and women graciously share their stories with us this week in the first installment of Colorado Community Media’s ongoing series, “Time to Talk,” on the state of mental health in Douglas County and the need to bring the issue of mental illness into everyday conversation.
According to national mental health organizations, one in five adults in the U.S. — and one in five youths between 13 and 18 years old — experience a mental illness.
One in 25 adults across the country live with a serious mental illness. Fifty-six percent of adults with mental illness did not receive the treatment they needed in the previous year. And 90 percent of those who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness.
“If you were to break your arm, you would retell the story in detail,” said Patti Boyd of Tri-County Health Department, the public agency serving Douglas, Arapahoe and Adams counties. “When there is a mental health issue, people just don’t want to talk about it.”
It’s time to talk: Don’t we all know someone who is struggling with some form of mental illness or mental health challenge?
Throughout the state and nation, campaigns are underway to eliminate the stigma of shame and guilt associated with mental illness and encourage a conversation that puts the issue into the light, without judgment, with compassion and understanding. In the hopes of furthering that movement, Colorado Community Media will spend much of the next year exploring how the state of mental health affects our Douglas County communities, which despite their general affluence are not immune from the societal stresses of high expectations, peer pressure and social media, among other factors that influence state of mind.
This week, the series kicks off with a comprehensive look at mental health in Douglas County, along with companion pieces on barriers to accessing mental health care. We also take a look at the Douglas County Mental Health Initiative, a unique collaboration of 37 public, private and nonprofit organizations and institutions established by county officials who realized people were falling through the cracks when local tragedies occurred several years ago.
We laud the county’s progressive vision and strong support for this important cause and the initiative’s mission: Partners meet monthly to talk about issues, needs, resources, successes, failures. They talk about the gaps they see, what they can do together, what programs can be created and what resources shared, to weave a community web of support that ensures a continuum of mental health care for residents.
But the conversation needs to extend into our neighborhoods, too.
To do that, we will be working with Douglas County, Douglas County Libraries and several other health organizations to sponsor forums in various parts of the county that focus on mental health concerns spotlighted in our series. We are grateful for the community partnerships that will help make this happen.
Upcoming installments will be published generally on a monthly basis. The second part will look at the effect of social media on the mental health of our children — research shows it is affecting their emotional intelligence, self-esteem and ability to cope with conflict. Other focuses will include suicide; mental health challenges among seniors, families, employers and jails; and how substance and alcohol abuse exacerbates the issue.
The hope is that the conversation will not only enable us to reach out to one another, but also help lead to some solutions and ideas that reflect the needs of our families, friends, neighbors and colleagues.
In this fast-paced world, we need to care enough to slow down and take a minute to listen.
If this isn’t the time to talk, then when will it be?
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