Original article on NBC11News.com
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.– In Colorado alone, close to 158,000 adults and roughly 52,000 children live with a serious mental illness, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness.
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and local health experts said mental illness continues to grow in our area.
“It’s just really important for us to be aware of our mental health and how we’re taking care of ourselves,” said Amy Gallagher, the vice president of Mind Springs Health. “There are so many great things we can do to prevent some negative mental health issues from popping up.”
While many people do seek help, not everyone does. Health experts said that is because mental health still remains a shameful topic.
“Especially on the Western Slope, we come from a culture where we may not necessarily always talk about these types of things,” Gallagher said. “It is sometimes a stigma and there may be that pull yourself up by your boot straps mentality.”
Martha Graf, the executive director of Western Colorado Suicide Prevention Foundation, said issues like suicide and mental health often go hand in hand.
“Mental health is a strong risk and sort of determinant factor when it comes to talking about suicide,” Graf said. “We know that many people who die by suicide have a mental health condition, but that doesn’t mean that most people with a mental health condition are going to complete suicide.”
Gallagher and Graf said many people who are suicidal seek help from primary care physicians when they should be getting help from a mental health provider.