It is a core commitment of the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved to illustrate the connections between the health care issues facing our state and the people who are individually affected by them. This guest post by Dr. Carl Clark, CEO of the Mental Health Center of Denver and a member of the CCMU board of directors, highlights the heightened importance of those connections for Coloradans suffering from mental illness.
“Riders on the Storm” is Natasha Gardner’s 5280 investigation of Colorado’s mental health system. The article appeared in the December issue, and the information Gardner presents is timeless in helping to understand mental illness. This type of in-depth reporting is invaluable to educating our community about the hopeful outcomes available to those living with a mental illness. The Mental Health Center of Denver was honored to be featured and we thank our consumers and board members who stepped up to tell their story.
By Gardner’s own admission, the story was difficult to write. Despite 1 in 4 people suffering from mental illness, few people are willing to discuss the topic, or their own health. The stigma surrounding mental health is reason enough for many suffering not to seek treatment. For those who have already been diagnosed, discussing their issues can be extremely difficult and bring about feelings of shame and embarrassment. This made Gardner’s story challenging, and she spent 18 months completing the extremely detailed account of mental health in Colorado.
Gardner refers to mental illness as the “no-casserole” disease. When a friend or family member is sick with a physical ailment, often they are sent thoughtful cards, well wishes, and casseroles. With the stigma surrounding mental illness, nobody sends cards, wishes, or casseroles, and often time further perpetuate the shameful feelings of the diagnosed.
Gardner spoke with more than 10 courageous people willing to discuss their own tales of tragedy and triumph as well as mental health advocates. I had a chance to speak with Gardner and provide her with some of the issues we face as well as how the Mental Health Center of Denver is making a difference. Dozens more families shared background information to shine a bright light on mental health in Colorado–and possibly help others. The more mental health becomes a topic of conversation, the less power the stigma surrounding the issue has to prevent others from seeking help.
Gardner, who also oversees digital projects for 5280, is helping the magazine break new ground in interactivity and engaging readers. “Riders on the Storm” is the first enhanced multimedia article 5280 has published. It is highly interactive, and offers many involving ways to learn about, and understand, mental health in Colorado. Through a video you will get to know Judy, one of our consumers and an artist in residence at our 2Succeed program, you’ll see a slideshow of famous people who are living well, and also happen to have a mental illness. To read the article, click here.
Colorado HealthStory collected stories of mental illness and recovery from around the state. Click here to listen to some of those stories.