May is Mental Health Month, a time to honor and reflect on the journeys of so many people who have struggled with their mental health, those we have lost, and those whose stories of recovery give hope and purpose to others. We celebrate the progress we have made in the field of mental health and acknowledge the work that still needs to be done. As we reflect on the evolution of mental health, it is clear that much has changed since we first celebrated this day.
Jefferson Center just celebrated our 65th birthday, and it’s remarkable to think of the transformation over those 65 years. Where we once faced significant stigma and discrimination, we now see people talking about their mental health, seeking care, and sharing their stories of recovery and hope. This shift in attitudes towards mental health has been significant. It is not and has not been easy. It takes courage to say, “I’m struggling.” It takes strength to say, “I need help.” It takes endurance to support a loved one in need. And arriving at this point in our history has taken the bravery of many voices, the determination of individuals, families and communities, and the growing awareness of the importance of truly listening and being responsive in addressing our mental wellbeing. While stigma still exists, the conversation has come out of the shadows in a transformative way. People are proudly sharing their journeys on social media, speaking to friends and family about their experiences, and helping to reduce the shame and secrecy that has surrounded mental health for far too long. We are seeing this shift reflected in our celebrities and public figures as well, who are not only sharing their struggles with mental health, but they are promoting mental health care and encouraging others to seek help when needed.
However, despite the progress we have made, mental health remains a significant concern for a growing number of individuals, including many Coloradans. According to the Colorado Health Institute, nearly 1 in 4 Coloradans will experience a mental health or substance use disorder in their lifetime, and only 1 in 3 Coloradans with a mental health condition receives treatment. Many people still struggle in silence or do not know where to turn. We still have a long way to go to eliminate stigma surrounding mental health conditions and ensure that everyone who needs mental health care can access it.
The past three years have only underscored the importance of mental health care and addressing our mental wellness. As people became more isolated and faced increased stress and uncertainty related to the pandemic, social unrest, and the complex challenges of this time, the demand for mental health services increased. We are also increasingly alerted to the disparities in mental health care. Communities of color, for example, are less likely to have access to mental health services and are more likely to experience negative mental health outcomes. At Jefferson Center, we are committed to working to address these disparities and ensure that all Coloradans have access to the care they need and to be a place of trust and belonging.
One step at a time, we are transforming the ways that we perceive our own and others’ mental wellbeing, evolving the ways that we deliver care and resources to ensure equitable, timely and quality services to meeting the growing needs. We are also seeing greater investment in mental health care and resources, both at the state and national level, where the importance of mental wellbeing in our overall health and the health of our communities is recognized more than ever before.
As we continue to recognize Mental Health Month, I urge you to join us in raising awareness about mental health and the importance of seeking care when needed. Talk to your friends and family about mental health, share your own experiences, listen to theirs, and support organizations like Jefferson Center and our community partners that are working to make a difference.
Thank you for your continued support, and I look forward to continuing this important work together.