Mental Health Dollars at Work

I had an exciting opportunity on June 14 to promote my book, The Secrets They Kept, while at the same time talk about new legislation that will expand treatment options for the mentally ill in my home state. As many of you know, in the last decade funds for these much needed services have been slashed throughout the country, including here in Colorado.

In the aftermath of the mass murder that took place last August (2012) at an Aurora, Colorado movie theatre, our governor, John Hickenlooper, along with many others, demanded Colorado address the serious issue of treating the mentally ill. As a result of these efforts, a bill, with a budget of $20 million dollars, was signed into law on May 16 that will provide walk-in crisis centers, a 24-hour hotline, and mobile treatment units in the rural areas of our state.

I spoke about this bill, along with the need to recognize the seriousness of mental illness in our country, on local radio stations KNUS am 710, KRKS am 990, and KRKS 94.7 FM. That interview will be aired on Saturday, June 22 from 9-9:30 a.m. MST. The program is called “Colorado Issues.”

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Mental Health Month

The month of May ushers in the promise of warmer weather and a renewed sense of hope for the future. This spring, as we anticipate the sunny days and balmy evenings of summer that lie ahead, I urge Americans to pause for a moment and focus attention on the millions of individuals who struggle with the hopelessness, pain, and isolation of mental illness. Every May for the past 11 years, as part of “Mental Health Month,” the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a grassroots, nonprofit organization, has been instrumental in promoting public awareness about mental illness, and the stigma that continues to plague those who suffer in its devastating grip.

The statistics on mental illness are both heartbreaking and alarming. The tragic events of Tucson, Arizona; Aurora, Colorado; and Newtown, Connecticut should compel us to take notice of these illnesses which, in many cases, we prefer to ignore-until it is too late.

According to NAMI:

  • One in four adults, approximately 61.5 million Americans, experience mental illness in a given year.
  • One in 17, about 13.6 million, live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Approximately 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year. For ages 8 to 15, the estimate is 13 percent.

Mental illness, and how to best recognize and treat it, is very much in the news these days. Unfortunately, stories reported by the media are frequently sensational in nature, and do not address the advances that have been made in this particular area of health care. Yet, now more than at any other time in history, progress is being made, and people being treated for mental illness, in all its many forms and manifestations, are capable of leading more productive lives.

This May, in cities across our land, as well as in other months throughout the year, advocacy groups such as NAMI will sponsor fundraising walks. These events offer Americans an opportunity to educate themselves on an important health issue that impacts us all.

I intend to participate in the NAMI Walk on May 18, 2013, at Stapleton Park, in Denver, Colorado, and I encourage you to do the same in a city near you. For more information, or to make to a pledge, please contact one of the organizations listed below.

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