Mental Health Awareness Month Offers Opportunity to Eliminate Stigma

Michael Allen

Michael Allen | Summitstone Health Partners

Since I started my career 30+ years ago, fighting stigma has been at the forefront of the work we do as behavioral healthcare professionals. As our communities have faced so many recent crises including suicides, the opioid epidemic, mass shootings, economic uncertainty, civil unrest, and climate concerns exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have also seen an exponential increase in the need for behavioral health services. While it is heartbreaking to see that more of us are struggling during these times, I find solace in the fact that people are asking for help when it’s needed, and, ideally before situations rise to the crisis level. I believe increased service demand is an indicator that our continuous efforts to eliminate stigma are working

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In the fight against stigma, what has felt like baby steps over the past several decades has, in recent years, become giant leaps ahead. Cultural role models such as athletes, entertainers, politicians, community leaders, our youth, and those with lived experiences who step forward as advocates, have all made contributions to breaking down those walls. By sharing their personal stories, they show that mental health concerns and diagnoses are indeed not rare and are absolutely treatable. By emphasizing that it’s okay to not be okay and that it’s imperative to reach out and ask for help, they provide a path for others to consider seeking resources for support.

As we mark the 24th year May has been recognized nationally as Mental Health Awareness Month, I have never been more proud of the profession I chose, the organization I lead, and the amazing colleagues and community partners we work with to help our neighbors, friends, and families live their lives to the fullest. In fact, this year SummitStone is marking our 65th year of providing unsurpassed behavioral healthcare across Larimer County. Over the years we have continued to expand our reach, our size, and the diversity of our services. The coming years are exciting ones for behavioral health. Our work, along with our partners and advocates, has paved many roads to reduce stigma and remove barriers to seeking help.  

I urge you to reach out if you or a loved one is struggling with behavioral health issues. The difference between surmounting the walls that stigma imposes and reaching out for assistance can indeed be life-changing. Help is available. People can and do recover. We know this because we see it every day.

If you or a loved one are in crisis, call SummitStone at (970) 494-4200 Option 4 or text TALK to 38255 anytime, day or night. Walk-in help is available 8 a.m. to midnight every day of the week at 1217 Riverside Ave., Fort Collins. 

About SummitStone Health Partners: SummitStone Health Partners is the not-for-profit behavioral health provider for Larimer County. Since 1957, SummitStone’s mission has been to provide unsurpassed mental health and substance use prevention, intervention, and treatment services. SummitStone now serves more than 10,000 community members across Larimer County annually, which includes a Behavioral Health Urgent Care and Crisis Stabilization Unit located at 1217 Riverside Ave. in Fort Collins. 

Michael G. Allen, MBA, LCSW, CAS is the CEO of SummitStone Health Partners.