COLORADO SPRINGS — The mental health impacts of the pandemic continue to be a major concern for people across our state and a new survey is now shedding light on the scope of the stress and what's causing it. News5 learned about what the pollsters uncovered and how this new information can help.
Our state is facing a mental health crisis fueled by the pandemic. A recent survey of thousands of Colorado residents revealed one in two people say they've experienced mental health strain because of the coronavirus.
"So really as a state we were beginning this conversation and then the pandemic happened. So, now we have a majority (53%) that are telling us they've experienced stress or loneliness or anxiety and those types of mental strain," said Lori Weigel, who helped to lead a bipartisan pollster effort.
Pollsters working with the Colorado Health Foundation interviewed more than 2,275 people from counties across the state. In many of the responses people shared the same concerns.
"Lots of businesses shutting down, people's wages and hours being cut, peaople are dealing with these dual-threats of a very real health risk and then the economic impact that our response has led to," said David Metz, one of the pollsters who led the interview process for this survey.
The survey spotlights a link between money issues and anxiety that people are feeling. Nearly 40% of Coloradans surveyed are worried they won't be able to afford basic needs like housing, health insurance or food in the coming year. For Coloradans who make less than $30,000 a year, more than 75% share those concerns.
"Over and over what we saw in the survey is Coloradans who were in that lower end of the income spectrum and are struggling to make ends meet, it has lots of ripple effects," said Metz. "It has consequences for their mental health. It has consequences for their physical health. Consistently that group of Coloradans was really expressing a great deal of stress and strain about how things are going."
Brett Nalezinski is a former marine who is concerned about the survey's findings. After losing his brother to suicide, he too considered taking his own life. But says talking about his hurts and hangups with friends saved his life.
"What I would say is try to find that one or two friends, close friends, just explain to them your situation and if they're really close to you they'll be there and that's what I had luckily," said Nalezinski.
Knowing so many people are dealing with mental health strain because of current circumstances bothers Nalezinski, but he says in his experience there are ways to cope.
"The pandemic has affected so many people. So, it might not even be your fault, which sucks, but maybe just accepting that and trying to navigate there's always a solution," said Nalezinski. There's always a way out. You just got to figure it out and it might be harder than before. That's going to make you even stronger. When it comes to mental illness that is a stepping stone is to accept your faults, accept your circumstances, maybe it's not your fault, but just accepting it and taking that in and trying to move forward is the only way to get better."
The Colorado Health Foundation plans to use the findings in their survey to help state law and policy makers to develop plans to help more people in the state get the help they need.
"We saw a lot of common ground across people in Colorado," said Senior Director of Policy Advocacy for Colorado Health Fountation Kyle Rojas-Legleiter. "People want to do something about the challenges we heard about in this poll. Mental health being one of those where support for doing more to help people who are struggling with their mental health was widely felt across varieties and differences in Colorado."
Check out the full survey: https://copulsepoll.org/
You can find mental health and financial tips and resources at KOAA.com/Rebound