Each year, more than one million Coloradans experience a mental health or substance use disorder. Most go without the care they need.
Some canít afford treatment. Others canít find a provider.
But for many, even the decision to seek mental health care is too difficult or shameful. It feels like airing your dirty laundry in public.
What can happen when a mental health disorder goes untreated? My family found outóin the most tragic way imaginable.
My first cousin Melissa was like a kid sister, as close to me as anyone in the world. But what neither I nor her parents knew was that Melissa was suffering from a deep depression.
That diagnosis is just a guess; we canít ask Melissa herself. She died by suicide on New Yearís Day, 2015.
In a letter she left behind, Melissa instructed us to say that she had died in a car accident. She didnít want anyone to know about her mental health.
Melissa was not alone in that regard.
The 2017 Colorado Health Access Survey asked Coloradans what stopped them from getting the mental health care they needed. Nearly a third said they didnít feel comfortable talking about ďpersonal problemsĒ with a health professional.
That sentiment is especially common in the Latino community. According to the American Psychological Association, fewer than one out of 11 Latinos with a mental health disorder contacts a mental health specialist.
I joined Mental Health Colorado because I want to make it possible for every Coloradan to receive the kind of care my cousin never sought. We need your help to get there: take a screening, become an advocate, share your story.
Letís make it clear that mental illness is real, widespreadóand treatable.
Andrew Romanoff served as the speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives. He is now the president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado (mentalhealthcolorado.org), the stateís leading advocate for the prevention and treatment of mental health and substance use disorders.