SOUTHERN COLORADO — According to Mental Health Colorado, more than a million Coloradans deal with a mental health or substance use disorder every year, but around 60% of adults and 70% of children never get the care they need. A new behavioral health campaign, called See Me, hopes to help fight the stigma surrounding mental health that can sometimes stop people from seeking the treatment they need.
News 5 spoke with a woman who said she has lived with PTSD and depression for around 25 years. She said her PTSD is from childhood trauma, but the feelings did not really hit her until her 30's. "That's manifested in just these feelings of hopelessness and being pretty dark, and at times it's been hard for me to think clearly," said Laura Teachout, who is now a board member for the Colorado Springs National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Teachout said she found help in several different ways, one of which was meeting people who have shared similar experiences through NAMI support groups. "I would never wish illness, mental illness on anyone, but knowing there are others out there who deal with the same struggles has been amazingly helpful, very comforting and reassuring," said Teachout.
One of the goals of the See Me campaign is to show people they are not alone. "People need to have that outreach, people need to be connected with, and they need to be seen," said Madlynn Ruble, the Deputy Director of Communications for the Colorado Department of Human Services.
There are three ways to participate in the See Me campaign. One is to sign a pledge, acknowledging that you will ask for help or help those around you through honest and open conversations. The second is a fourteen day challenge, where new prompts appear every day, to engage a person in the conversation or pay it forward by changing the kind of language used to describe mental health. Third, there's a virtual story wall, which is a way to submit stories and have a voice without having to do it in person, which can be difficult.
Those from School District 11 said the See Me campaign could help their students. "If students feel compelled and feel like they can share their voice and their story, I think more and more will then be able to see out the help they absolutely need," said Cory Notestine, the executive director of Student Success and Wellness for School District 11.
The impact of sharing one's story on other people struggling is one of the reasons Teachout said the See Me campaign could make a real difference. "One of the biggest ways to fight stigma is to do what I'm doing right now, which is sharing my story. And frankly, getting up in front of a lot of people and saying 'I live with this' is not my favorite thing to do, but I believe with all my heart that sharing a story fights stigma because it invites others to share their stories," said Teachout.
The See Me campaign is an output from the Colorado Behavioral Task Force, which was set up by the governor. It is funded through the Colorado Department of Human Services.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health or substance use disorders, Colorado Crisis Services can help. You can call at 1-844-493-8255, or text "talk" to 38255.
To learn more about NAMI, or to join one of their support groups, visit their website.