It’s the beginning of another year, and the time when everyone is working to keep their new year’s resolutions. Like millions of people across the nation, I, too, am thinking about what changes I need to make to be healthier and happier. There’s a lot more to that than diet and exercise though. As a kid, I remember my dad taking a day off, every so often, just to clear his mind and relax. At the time I didn’t understand, or care much, but now as an adult, I understand the need to take the time off, give your mind a break, relax, unplug, and take care of yourself. We could all benefit from focusing more on our own mental health.
Mental illness is very common at every age, in every race, across all incomes, and across our state, country, and around the world. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that:
- One in five children ages 13-18 have, or will have a serious mental illness
- One in five adults in the US experiences mental illness in a given year
- One in 25 adults in the US experiences a serious mental illness in a given year--one that substantially interferes with or limits a major life activity
- One in four adults experiencing homelessness live with serious mental illness and almost half live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders
- One in five people in the criminal justice system have a recent history of mental illness
Mental illness can be caused by many factors such as genetics, accidents like brain injuries or infections, or social factors related to the environment we live and work in. These social factors, such as poor nutrition or exposure to toxins, affect some communities more than others, creating harmful inequities. For example, people of color are at a higher risk of developing a serious mental illness because the United States has a long history of racist policies that limit access to the financial and health care resources necessary to live a healthy life.
Serious mental illness costs the United States $193.2 billion in lost earnings every year, and mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, are the third most common reason for hospitalization for adults--so we cannot afford the human or financial cost of these inequities. That’s why we work with partners like Mental Health Colorado and Mental Health Center of Denver to make mental health coverage and care more equitable and accessible, and why we support initiatives like Caring 4 Denver, which will fund suicide prevention and treatment facilities for those with mental health and substance use needs. It's also why we provider paid health leave to our staff and do self-care activities together.
As you think about your goals for the year, I hope you’ll consider your own mental health and make some changes that will make it a priority. Even small changes can have a positive effect on your overall health. Then let’s also all commit to working toward a mental health care system that works for all Coloradans!