Talking about Mental Health
Mental health is an important aspect of our daily lives and overall wellness, but it can be hard to understand and sometimes even harder to talk about. Mental health is unique for every person, and is not static. It changes over time, and can be impacted by internal and external factors. In turn, it can affect our relationships, our work, and our physical health.
So, what exactly is mental health and why does it play such a huge role in our lives?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.”  Mental health impacts and is impacted by how we perceive and interact with the world around us.
Many aspects play into to our mental health, such as:
- Biological factors
- Life experiences
- Family history of mental health 
Mental health also factors into our physical wellbeing. Stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions can increase the risk of physical issues such as heart disease, and vice versa. 
Some people face greater mental health challenges than others due to factors beyond their control. It is important to remember that mental health is not tied to the quality of someone’s character or their worth as a person!
How many people are really impacted by mental health?
Mental health is central to our daily lives, and everyone interacts with it all the time! Even when you are feeling calm and relaxed, that is a factor of your mental health.
While we all experience ups and downs in our life, many people assume that mental illness only affects a small number of people. In fact, it is more common than most people think and many people will struggle with mental health conditions at some point in their life. As the CDC reports:
- More than 1 in 5 US adults live with a mental illness.
- Over 1 in 5 youth (ages 13-18) either currently or at some point during their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental illness.
- About 1 in 25 U.S. adults lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. 
Check out these myths and facts about mental health!
If mental health is so important, let’s talk about it!
It is time we end the stigma around mental health so we can speak more openly about it. Talking about mental health can save lives!
Reducing the stigma around mental health:
“Stigma” refers to the socially enforced negative attitudes, beliefs, and associations about certain topics. Mental health conditions have long been stigmatized because of misconceptions and false information, making it hard to talk about for many people because of fear of judgment. The fear or resentment surrounding mental health can have serious consequences, including:
- Reluctance to seek help or treatment
- Lack of understanding by family, friends, co-workers or others
- Fewer opportunities for work, school or social activities or trouble finding housing
- Bullying, physical violence or harassment
- Health insurance that doesn’t adequately cover your mental illness treatment
- The belief that you’ll never succeed at certain challenges or that you can’t improve your situation 
The more we educate ourselves and others about mental health and talk about it, the more we can reduce the stigma! Here are some steps you can take to make a positive change around shared perceptions of mental illness and mental health conditions:
Seek treatment and/or encourage others to seek treatment for their mental health.
Professional mental health providers can help diagnose mental health conditions and identify ways to reduce or work through the symptoms. It is also important to remove any judgment around seeking help! It does not make you “weak” or a “failure.” In fact, getting help will improve your wellbeing and your relationships with the people you care about. Developing healthy habits and systems of self-care such as good nutrition, exercise, and a strong sleep routine can also improve your mental health.
Reach out and talk to people about what you are feeling and experiencing, or be available for a friend or loved one so that they can talk about their experiences!
Talking about mental health can be daunting, but sharing how you feel with someone you trust can make a huge difference. It can help you (and them) better understand what you are going through, and it can create a network of support to help you work through it. Similarly, being available to listen to friends or loved ones talk about how they are feeling can help someone who is struggling with their mental health feel less alone.
Do not equate people with their mental illness.
People are not defined by their mental illness. Understanding person-first language vs. identity-first language can help you learn more about how people prefer to describe and identify themselves, and can also provide ways to distinguish someone from their diagnosis, center the human aspect of mental health, and reduce stigma and judgment.
Speak out against the stigma!
Learn more about mental health and how to talk about it at letstalkco.org.
You are not alone, there is help!
If you need emergence services:
For someone with an immediate life-threatening emergency, dial 9-1-1 for assistance.
- Call Colorado Crisis Services at 1.844.493.TALK (8255) | Text TALK to 38255. Get connected to a crisis counselor or trained professional 24/7 who will assess risk and determine if a mobile response is necessary. There is no wrong reason to call – from suicidal thoughts to anxiety, loneliness, or substance use, someone will be there to talk you through it.
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 9-8-8. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline connects you with a crisis center in the Lifeline network closest to your location. Your call will be answered by a trained crisis worker who will listen empathetically and without judgment. The crisis worker will work to ensure that you feel safe and help identify options and information about mental health services in your area. Your call is confidential and free.
- To learn how to get support for mental health, drug, and alcohol issues, visit FindSupport.gov.
- To locate treatment facilities or providers, visit FindTreatment.gov or call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357).