Op/Ed: Time to Check-in on Mental Health

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Michael G. Allen, MBA, LCSW, CACIII, CEO SummitStone Health Partners

Since 1949, Mental Health America has led the effort to recognize May as Mental Health Awareness Month. That has passed, but there has never been a better time to focus on the wellbeing and health of those around us – our families, our neighbors, our friends, and colleagues.

As the Community Behavioral Health Center serving Larimer County, SummitStone Health Partners provides mental health and addiction services to nearly 10,000 of our neighbors each year. In 2020, we offered more than 150,000 services to adults, children, and families.

Over the past year, we have experienced unprecedented change brought upon us by COVID-19. As more people receive the vaccine and health department advisories begin to lift, I anticipate an increased need for our services. 

A recent report from Mental Health America revealed that anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation have skyrocketed during the pandemic. Based on more than 1.5 million mental health screenings completed between January and September 2020, 8 out of 10 people exhibited moderate to severe symptoms on both anxiety and depression scales. Additionally, 37 percent of those taking the screenings reported thoughts of suicide nearly every day in September of 2020.

We are collectively in a crisis of stress, anxiety, depression, uncertainty, and isolation brought on by the coronavirus and other societal stressors. But help is readily available. Here are just a few ways SummitStone can assist:

  • SummitStone offers free online screening for a wide range of behavioral health issues. 
  • In collaboration with the Health District of Northern Larimer County, SummitStone offers an emotional support line called Colorado Spirit, where counselors are available to talk with anyone having trouble dealing with issues related to COVID-19. That number is (970) 221-5551. www.summitstonehealth.org/colospirit/
  • SummitStone’s telephonic crisis response is available 24/7/365 by calling (970) 494-4200 Ext. 4. 
  • Walk-in crisis services may be accessed at 1217 Riverside Dr. in Fort Collins anytime between 8 a.m. and midnight. www.summitstonehealth.org/services/crisis-services/
  • To SummitStone is offering free QPR Suicide Prevention courses as well as Mental Health First Aid. For more information on either of these courses, visit www.summitstonehealth.org or email [email protected].
  • Question, Persuade, Refer (or QPR) training teaches how to respond to someone who may be having suicidal thoughts. The QPR mission is to reduce suicidal behaviors and save lives by providing proven suicide prevention training. www.summitstonehealth.org/qpr/
  • Mental Health First Aid helps participants understand the signs and symptoms associated with behavioral health issues, how to recognize them, and how to respond. Topics include depression, suicide, substance abuse, psychosis, and panic attacks – to name a few – and the course aims to reduce stigma and increase support for those who may need it. www.summitstonehealth.org/mental-health-first-aid/

As life begins to evolve to a “new normal” I want you to know that SummitStone Health Partners is committed to the health and wellbeing of you and your loved ones. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help—we are here for you.

Yours in good health, 

Michael G. Allen, MBA, LCSW, CACIII

CEO SummitStone Health Partners

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