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Mental health advocates encourage officers to seek help following line of duty deaths

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COLORADO SPRINGS -

The death of a coworker is traumatic. For Colorado law enforcement agencies, it's happened with tremendous frequency this year.
It's one reason why mental health advocates want to get the word out that it's okay to reach out for help.

"We're encouraging folks, including officers to seek counseling," said Andrew Romanoff, President and CEO of Mental Health Colorado. "It's one of the reasons Colorado has set up a 24/7 counseling and crisis call line."

He points out that State lawmakers updated the Workers Compensation Act last year to allow peace officers and other professionals to receive those benefits with a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"It's not a sign of weakness to seek out and talk to someone," Romanoff said. 

"What you'll find at the other line is a mental health professional or a peer specialist, somebody who has experienced a mental health or substance abuse disorder themselves and somebody who can talk you through what you may be going through and make sure that you're getting appropriate help."

While Coloradoans are gradually improving their understanding of mental health issues, Romanoff estimates at least a half a million people here still suffer in silence out of fear retribution or stigmatization.

"We ought to make mental health screenings just as routine and just as universal as getting your blood pressure checked or your temperature taken," he said. "In fact, it ought to be offered in the same place."

One way he hopes to change that narrative is by getting young people connected to treatment sooner. Mental Health Colorado will soon launch a pilot program with School District 11 in Colorado Springs to expand services for students. Romanoff explains that adolescence is a critical stage in development for recognizing mental health disorders.

"Most cases, the symptoms of mental illness usually occur during adolescence, an about half of the cases by the age 14 and about three-quarters of the cases by the age of 24," he said. "Yet there is a gap between the onset of symptoms and the arrival of treatment."

Mental Health Colorado has a free anonymous self-screening app on their website. They encourage anyone who is struggling emotionally to give it a try.

There are questionnaires for individual adults, teens and even for parents of teens who may have concerns about their kids.

Colorado Crisis Services Hotline (1-844-493-TALK): If you are in crisis or need help dealing with one, call this toll-free number 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255 to speak to a trained professional. When you call Colorado Crisis Services, you will be connected to a crisis counselor or trained professional with a master's or doctoral degree.

Colorado Crisis Services Walk-In Locations: Walk-in crisis services are open 24/7, and offer confidential, in-person crisis support, information, and referrals to anyone in need. Visit http://coloradocrisisservices.org to find locations.

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