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Kim Floyde

Teenaged girl making phone call

Community partners team up to assess suicide risk in our schools

By News

ON AND BEYOND: Community partners team up to assess suicide risk in our schools

So many of us have had feelings of sadness and despair, but even with that experience it is still difficult for most of us to truly understand the deep and pervasive thoughts that can lead a person to consider ending their life. Suicide is a complex, multifaceted issue which is rarely the result of a single source of trauma or stress. Suicidal ideation is a serious issue and occurs in people of all ages. The youth in our region is one group that needs a range of help and support when it comes to suicidal thinking or ideation.

In Colorado, suicide was the leading cause of death among youth ages 10-18 between 2013 and 2017. The 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey indicated that 31.4% of Colorado high school students reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row during the previous 12 months. Furthermore, 17.0% reported considering suicide, and 7.0% reported making one or more suicide attempts in the previous twelve months.

The data are startling, but the encouraging news is that there are many effective suicide prevention programs that can bring hope, connectedness, and recovery to young people struggling with thoughts of suicide.

Suicide Risk Assessment Team Research demonstrates that assessing for risk is an effective way to recognize and prevent harm. This informs the foundational belief of the West Central Colorado Suicide Risk Assessment Team (SRAT) that suicide deaths are preventable for youth who are assessed for risk and provided support and treatment from a community care coordination team.

The SRAT is led by The Center for Mental Health and the Montrose County School District (MCSD). Some additional partner agencies include: Hilltop Family Resource Center, Montrose County Department of Human Services, Northside Health Clinic, 7th Judicial District, The Montrose Police Department, and The Montrose County Sherriff’s Office.

In the fall of 2019, members of the Montrose community implemented the Salem-Keiser Suicide Risk Assessment Model for the assessment of suicide risk in our youth. The program has a two-tiered response to any concerns of suicidal ideation. The risk assessment remains simple for the student but provides valuable information needed to determine what level of support will be best to address the risk. If it is identified after the assessment that further evaluation is needed, the school will contact The Center for Mental Health through The Crisis and Support Line.

“MCSD is proud to be a part of a community effort aimed at identifying students who are dealing with suicidal ideation,” James Pavlich, director of Safety and Security for the Montrose County School District, states. He also notes that community collaboration is key to overall success: “This program works because it approaches risk mitigation as a community team.”

“The loss of any youth is a tragedy we want to prevent,” says Laura Byard, LPC, regional director for The Center for Mental Health. “Our community prioritizes the safety and welfare of our youth. We work to ensure they can recover and regain the hope they need to overcome the challenges and pain they are experiencing.”

Since being implemented in Montrose, the SRAT has expanded to provide support in Ridgway, Telluride, West End, Norwood, and Ouray School Districts for the 2020-2021 school year.

Susan Lacy, superintendent of the Ridgway School District, supports the program and the community connection it provides. “One of the benefits of this collaboration is it has established a chain of communication — a bridge between the district, The Center for Mental Health and our school-based counselors. That allows us to keep consistent in our protocol when it comes to assessing suicide risk and communicating about what treatments are being provided.”

Pavlich agrees and notes positive outcomes are becoming more apparent as time goes on: “This program has made our students, staff and community safer already and is reducing the stigma around suicide.”

The Center for Mental Health is proud to be part of this important community team. As the region’s community behavioral health center, our vision is to be the help you need when you need it.

If someone you care about needs help, call our free, 24/7 Crisis and Support Line at 970-252-6220 or walk in anytime to the Crisis Walk-in Center at 300 N. Cascade Avenue, Montrose.

How can I help? Suicide prevention really is a community effort. We can all help.

5 Actions Steps to Help Someone in Emotional Pain

  1. ASK: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” It’s not an easy question, but studies show that asking an at-risk
    individual if they are suicidal does NOT increase suicide or suicidal thoughts.
  2. KEEP THEM SAFE: Reducing access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. You can
    ask the at-risk individual if they have a plan. Removing or disabling lethal means can make a big difference.
  3. BE THERE: Create a safe space with your presence and listen carefully to what the person is thinking and feeling.
    Acknowledge feelings without judgement and try to understand underlying emotional struggles. Research tells us that
    acknowledging suicide can decrease suicidal thoughts.
  4. HELP THEM CONNECT: You can help make a connection to a suicide lifeline or with a trusted individual (family member,
    spiritual advisor, or mental health professional).

    1. The Center for Mental Health Crisis Walk-in Center: 970-252-6220 | 300 N. Cascade Avenue, Montrose
    2. Colorado Crisis Services: 1-844-493-8255 | Text “TALK” to 38255
    3. If there is imminent risk for suicidal death, call 911.
    4. Safe2Tell app or call 1-877-542-7233
  5. STAY CONNECTED: Make space and time for ongoing conversations after an emotional crisis. It can make a
    difference.
Montrose Daily Press
Contributed by Nya Greenstone, MSW, LSW, The Center for Mental Health
Montrose Daily Press | March 27, 2021
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The purchase of a designated vehicle for the mental health clinician will allow the clinician to respond autonomously, stay on scene to deliver patient services, and complete follow-up visits while freeing up officers for additional calls for service. Courtesy photo by William Woody (City of Montrose)

Co-response model is helping the community at-large

By News

A look at how Montrose’s co-response model is helping the community at-large

In Montrose, the co-response model involving local law enforcement and mental health professionals is having an impact.

“Throughout our country, communities have been seeing an increase in emergency situations involving persons with addiction or other mental health issues,” said Carol Howe during a webinar that included law enforcement and mental health professionals in Montrose County. “Questions surrounding who should respond and how they should respond are being asked.”

The co-response model — where local law enforcement and mental health professionals respond together — launched in 2018. It’s a partnership with the Center for Mental Health, which provides behavioral health professionals to respond with officers to police calls that involve a person experiencing a mental health crisis, and the Montrose County Sheriff’s Office.

Essentially, officers will arrive on scene, make sure it’s safe, and once secured, Katharyn Burke, a licensed professional counselor and co-responder for Montrose who’s also with the Center for Mental Health, will assess the individual and find the most appropriate action to help the person. It’s on a case-by-base basis, but Burke can help the individual secure a safety plan or, if not available, can offer a referral after the call and inform the person about what resources the Center for Mental Health can provide.

If the person isn’t cooperative, de-escalation tactics are used, but most calls, due to the cooperative nature and partnership, are safe. It’s an individualized response, with the goal of providing the least amount of intervention to meet their needs. For example: sometimes a person will be transported to Montrose Memorial Hospital if there’s a medical requirement.

People are also offered an opportunity to stay at the crisis walk-in center or stabilization unit at the Center for Mental Health, an option that’s often accepted and consistently available. If Burke isn’t available, the mobile response unit from the crisis walk-in center provides support. (The mobile response vehicle was purchased after a successful 2019 grant application for a Peace Officer Mental Health award from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.)

Burke’s training is extensive. She has a master’s in counseling and is a licensed professional counselor in Colorado, and has several years of experience in crisis work.

The goals of the program are to decrease police involvement when it’s a mental or behavioral health issue, involving best practices for resources and support for people in the community.

“The end goal is to make sure that our community is getting the services they need, and also lessen the time law enforcement is on scene dealing with the individual,” said Tim Cox, patrol commander with the Montrose Police Department and program supervisor.

That collaboration has helped local law enforcement respond to other calls for service when needed, and with Burke following up with the individuals, there’s been a “huge” reduction in crimes committed from people dealing with behavioral or mental issues, all while keeping them out of the judicial system, Cox said.

“It’s done wonders, it really has,” Ty Cox, lieutenant with the Montrose County Sheriff’s Office, said of the program. “We don’t deal with the same people as much and they’re getting the help they need. It’s been such a great program and we’re glad to be a part of it.”

Though centralized in Montrose, there’s also a team in Delta, offering support to people in Paonia, Hotchkiss and Cederadge. It’s all made possible by grant funding from the Office of Behavioral Health. For example, Montrose County Sheriff’s Office paid, through a grant, to send Burke to crisis intervention training, emphasizing the partnership between the entities. (The sheriff’s office also sends deputies to de-escalation training annually for the past five years, as well as crisis intervention training.)

The training is real-life like, offering a formidable sense of what it’s like to respond to a call that requires what’s learned in the training. It’s vital, Tim Cox said, as it reduces the use of force and pivots the focus to what the individuals need.

The amount of calls for service was impacted by the pandemic. At first, there was a reduction of calls. It picked up during the summer, and lately, there’s been a rise. It’s been similar for mental health professionals at the Center for Mental Health.

There’s also been less cross training due to the pandemic — Burke training the officers and vice-versa — but more funding in the future could help that training become more frequent.

At the moment, there’s enough funding for one position in Montrose, and though the budget is limited, there’s benefit to Burke going on call with different officers, said Laura Byard, licensed professional counselor and regional director from the Center for Mental Health, creating connections and partnerships.

It’s true, though, that additional funding could help Montrose County’s co-response model have structured teams (officers working with the same mental health professional), similar to what’s utilized on the Front Range, as well as grow the program.

It makes for a better response overall, Tim Cox said, and Montrose has been on that trend, seeing program growth since its inception.

“We would add more staff, so we have more availability throughout the week for co- response,” Byard said. “That would be our dream big goal.”

A challenge for co-responder programs across the state, Byard said, is determining how many calls require the co-response model. Calls involving alcohol, substance abuse can vary between the police department and sheriff’s office, which often see similar trends. It’s complicated, too, since a criminal charge can be charged to someone dealing with substance abuse and behavioral health, making it tough to track.

(Byard later added that Montrose County has not seen a similar trend to suicide rates experienced nationally during the pandemic.)

But, panelists agreed that the program has helped reduce the number of inmates struggling with mental health, given a big boost by Burke’s follow-up procedures. And, the partnerships are a big part of that, Tim Cox said.

“Although we have great resources, they’re limited, so we’ve learned to adopt and overcome and work together as a team, and it’s been excellent,” he said. “Our community and our partnerships are very valued in Montrose.”

The community can join the effort by offering support to local agencies that provide services to certain sectors of the community, including people experiencing homelessness.

“It doesn’t matter what anybody’s status is,” Tim Cox said. “If somebody needs help, this team here is going to get them the help they need.”

The Center for Mental Health support line is 970-252-6220. The community is encouraged to call with questions or concerns.

To view the webinar, visit youtube.com/watch?v=RGk2wg2rY1Q.

Montrose Daily Press
Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press
Montrose Daily Press | March 25, 2020
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Teenage girl, looking out a window sad, showing signs of childhood depression

Signs of Growing up with Childhood Depression

By CMH Blog

Growing up is hard enough—growing up with depression can feel impossible. Children and teenagers are often labeled as moody or angsty by parents and other adults, and teenagers themselves can think something is wrong with them. It is normal for kids to experience mood fluctuations, but if those feelings and behaviors last longer than two weeks, they may signal depression. Because children and teenagers do get depression. In fact, depression affects about three percent of US children. Childhood depression is a serious, but treatable, mental health issue.

What are the signs and symptoms of childhood depression?

We asked our mental health community to share, in retrospect, how they knew they were living with depression as children. We’ve broken what they had to say down into symptoms and warning signs of childhood depression.

Changes in Mood and Behavior

  • “I didn’t feel the excitement of doing anything anymore. I got extremely detached from everyone, I no longer cared what happened to me. I just kind of stayed away from other kids, and it took more effort than I’d like to admit to even talk to anyone.” –Athena C.
  • “When I was really young, like grade-school, I never understood why all of the other children were so happy and carefree. Everyone else seemed great at making friends and enjoyed being a child, but I couldn’t enjoy anything. I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness even at a young age. I questioned my existence on a daily basis, I just couldn’t be happy, but was too young to understand what depression was.” –Audrey L.

Negative and Self-Critical Thinking

  • “For me, it was never feeling good enough, like no matter how hard I tried I just wasn’t like everyone else, especially my two older sisters. Then the increased emotions came.” –Ashley G.
  • “Your brain will tell you worst possible scenarios. Intrusive thoughts will be mean to you and tell you that you don’t deserve to enjoy life.” –Keith B.
  • “I was always feeling like there was a black cloud casting a shadow over me even when things were happy. Never feeling like I was enough—I always could have been better. Feeling ashamed of myself for no real reason…just feeling like I didn’t fit in anywhere. Like I didn’t belong in this life.”—Jennifer L.

Actions of Guilt, Defiance, and Anger

  • “Looking back on it, I constantly felt guilt and had a hard time fitting in with anyone. I was a very cautious and shy kid.” –Poppy W.
  • “I would get so upset or so mad so quickly and without reason. I didn’t realize I had depression until this year.” –Ashley G.
  • “I had really bad anger issues, and it was hard to control my emotions. I didn’t know what was wrong with me when I was a teenager, it was really hard.” –Kate W.

Emotional Outburst

  • “I cried a lot and wasn’t as happy as the other kids. I was unmotivated and didn’t want to shower; my room was a mess and I would stay inside and play games all day. I had trouble making friends because I was super shy, and that turned into anxiety (these issues have some childhood trauma factors and environmental factors as well).”—Hannah F.
  • “In high school, I would wake up and cry because I had to go to school. I was afraid all the time.” –Genevieve O.

Unusual Sleeping Patterns and Feeling Physically Sick

  • “Feeling more tired, losing interest in things I loved, being less outgoing, more shy.” –Karalyn G.
  • “The psychosomatic parts of it that my family didn’t recognize or even know about. The headaches, the tummy aches, coming home from school with panic attacks, unable to sleep at night, or sleeping too much. I was so young. And looking back, the signs were always there.” –Jessica I.
  • “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel exhausted. In middle school and the beginning of high school, I begged my parents to be homeschooled because I always stayed up at night crying about having to go there the next day.” –Sarah K.
  • “I remember either oversleeping or not being able to sleep for long periods. I would get nagged by my mom, so I thought I was just lazy.” –Chelsea M.

Lack of Concentration and Academic Decline

  • “For me, it was not being able to focus. My grades dropped from straight As to Fs from what seemed like out of nowhere.” –Athena C.
  • “I got overwhelmed by schoolwork that should have been easy for me.” – Genevieve O.
  • “I quit my first university due to ‘home sickness.’ Now I’ve realized it was depression that caused the fatigue, social anxiety, and loss of interest in everything I had been doing.” –Magdalena K.
  • “I had problems focusing, finishing my school work and my grades were terrible. I hated the world so I made my own world in my head. I still go there sometimes.” –Ezra P.

Suicidal Ideation or Self Harm

  • “Whenever I climbed a tree or somewhere up high looking down, I thought how nice it would be if I was high enough to jump. Never knew that was a concerning thought.”—Brittany B.
  • When I was a teenager, it was really hard. I was suicidal and self-harmed. I wish I had been diagnosed earlier, instead of having friends and teachers tell me I was faking it for attention.” –Kate W.
  • “I remember writing in this diary I had when I was like 7 or 8 that I just wanted to ‘go away.’ Not to run away but disappear completely right there and then. It’s weird because I didn’t really know the concept of suicide back then, but I just remember not wanting to exist.” –Kate S.

What Can You Do to Help a Child with Depression

Childhood depression is a serious mental health issue. The symptoms can interfere with school, social activities, and daily life. If left undiagnosed and untreated, the depression can continue to negatively affect children as they transition into adulthood.

The good news is that it is treatable, and there are a range of things we can do to help a child find the path to their best life.

Give the Child Emotional Support

Children and teenagers need emotional support and if you are a parent, your role is to help build the foundation needed for your child to manage future social relationships and emotional challenges. Parents, and other trusted adults, can do this by actively participating in the child’s life and encouraging a positive place for emotions to live. Parents can:

  • Spend more quality time with a child
  • Develop conversations that are open and honest
  • Acknowledge their feelings and struggles
  • Become active listeners
  • Help them learn positive ways to cope with anger

Encourage Connection

Isolation can deepen depressive thoughts and working to develop strong personal connections for your child can help them feel supported when they need it most. While you can’t force friends on your children, you can help create opportunities that encourage relationship growth.

  • Encourage participation in school activities or clubs
  • Provide ideas about social activities
  • Encourage play dates and sleep overs
  • Include positive family members in regular gathering or outings
  • Look into mentorship programs

Promote a Healthy Lifestyle

Your mental health is closely related to your physical health, and it is no different for children. In fact, exercise is often considered a natural anti-depressant. Finding ways to encourage healthier eating and physical activity can help your child feel better and provide access to a whole host of sports and activities that can encourage connectedness, healthy lifestyle and positive thinking all in one.

  • Joining a sports team
  • Taking a daily walk
  • Planting a food garden
  • Taking a kids cooking class

Seek Professional Support

When dealing with depression, childhood or otherwise, it is important to take it seriously. Getting professional counseling help can encourage positivity and with work, uncover the path for anyone to live their best life– and enjoy it.

Please reach out to The Center for Mental Health to get help at any time. One of our caring professional counselors can help you cope with anxiety, depression or feelings of being overwhelmed. For appointments call 970-252-3200. For urgent help, call our free 24/7 Crisis and Support Line at 970.252.6220.

Contributed by Megan Outlaw, MSW, LCSW with The Center for Mental Health
Hold hands and consoling

Ten Things NOT to Say to a Person With Social Anxiety

By CMH Blog

Social anxiety is an intense, pervasive fear of being watched and judged by others. It can manifest in social anxiety, getting in the way of work, socializing, or school. Or it can appear as performance anxiety, causing physical symptoms of anxiety when playing sports, dancing, playing a musical instrument, or performing on stage.

In talking with members of our community about their experiences with social anxiety disorder, we heard a lot about what people should not say to someone suffering from that condition. Following is a list of ten things that are not helpful to say and should be avoided.

  1. What’s the big deal?
    People who don’t suffer from social anxiety disorder often don’t understand how situations they view as minor can cause crippling anxiety in those that do experience social anxiety. During those “good times” and get togethers that many enjoy, those with social anxiety tend to be on high alert, paying attention to and getting overwhelmed by the smallest details. Asking “what’s the big deal” doesn’t help and can actually make the person feel worse.
  1. Just suck it up and get over it.
    Using this kind of language shows a deep misunderstanding of social anxiety disorder. It suggests that sufferers can control their fears. This kind of “tough love” makes people feel attacked, misunderstood, and isolated. Instead of helping, it makes people more anxious and can cause them to feel ashamed, as if they are failing in some way.
  1. You just need to calm down.
    First, using the term “just” makes it seem as if what you’re suggesting is easy to do. Social anxiety can be paralyzing, and it is difficult, sometimes impossible to control. And telling someone to calm down almost always has the opposite effect. It invalidates their feelings, suggesting that they are hysterical and irrational. And to be honest, almost no one can relax on command.
  1. You just need to be positive.
    This statement is pretty patronizing. It diminishes the circumstances that may have contributed to the person suffering from social anxiety. Anxiety can stem from painful or traumatic experiences in a person’s past, making them feel unsafe in social situations. They aren’t trying to be negative; they’re trying to protect themselves.
  1. It’s not that bad.
    Yes, things can always be worse. But saying this negates the depth and breadth of the emotions that someone is feeling. Just because it could be worse, doesn’t mean that it isn’t bad, that it isn’t real, that you should take comfort in the fact that you could be feeling much worse. Going from feeling terrible to feeling really terrible doesn’t take away the fact that you are feeling terrible. In fact, this is kind of stating the obvious. Despite the intention to make someone feel better, it may make them feel worse, because they feel guilty for feeling like their situation is pretty bad. It won’t make them feel grateful for what they have; it’ll just make them feel guiltier, which leads to more anxiety.
  1. You’re just imagining it.
    This is simply unhelpful. It suggests that social anxiety isn’t a real condition, that it’s all in a person’s head. It makes someone feel like they’re even more out of control, because if they were “in control” they “wouldn’t be imagining it.” This statement also suggests judgment on the part of the speaker. Just because the thoughts and fears of social anxiety originate in the brain doesn’t make them any less real or difficult. And this anxiety often has a very real physical component to it.
  1. It’ll be okay.
    Despite the good intentions behind this statement, like the desire to make someone feel better, it honestly doesn’t help. Anxiety steals the ability to be rational—it tells the sufferer that nothing will be ok, that everything will go wrong. And you saying that it’ll be okay will do nothing to convince them otherwise. If you want to help, tell them it’s okay for them to have their own feelings; they will figure out how to deal with their anxieties as they know how.
  1. We all feel this way sometimes.
    Yes, everyone experiences anxiety and fear in different situations. But comparing a slight case of nerves to social anxiety disorder is like comparing an orange to a citrus grove. This comment trivializes the intense, paralyzing anxiety that comes with social anxiety disorder. If you truly understood the anxiety felt by sufferers of social anxiety, you wouldn’t say this.
  1. You just need a drink.
    This could be one of the worst things you could say to someone suffering from social anxiety disorder. Yes, drinking might slightly lessen the intensity of anxiety in the moment. But it’s only temporary, and it can turn into addiction if used long term. Don’t encourage this as a coping technique.
  1. Here we go again…
    And lastly, there is almost nothing you can say that will make someone suffering from social anxiety disorder never want to speak to you again. This comment suggests that the sufferer is being melodramatic, annoying, and irritating, all deliberately. This obviously makes their anxiety that much worse, and only reinforces all the emotions they’re already feeling. Please don’t say this kind of thing to a person suffering from social anxiety disorder.

Remember, social anxiety isn’t a choice. It is real. And there is help.

Social anxiety is a treatable mental health condition. Please reach out to The Center for Mental Health to get help at any time. One of our caring professional counselors can help you cope with anxiety, depression or feelings of being overwhelmed. For appointments, call 970-252-3200. For more information, visit www.centermh.org.

Written by Jennifer Wheeler, MSW, LCSW – OP/JBBS Therapist for The Center for Mental Health – Telluride
Woman with hands in front of face

Five Things to Know about Social Anxiety Disorder

By CMH Blog

Jerry Seinfeld used to joke that the second biggest thing people are afraid of is death. The second. Turns out, the number one thing that people are afraid of is public speaking. His point was that people are more afraid to speak in public than they are of dying. While Seinfeld was using this as a joke, there is basis in reality. We all know the feeling of being nervous or uncomfortable, of struggling to make polite conversation or speak to a room full of people. Most of us can get through it. But for people suffering from social anxiety, it could be life altering, so uncomfortable that they avoid social situations, job interviews, or eating out because of the anxiety it produces for them.

Social anxiety is an intense, pervasive fear of being watched and judged by others. It can manifest in social anxiety, getting in the way of work, socializing, or school. Or it can appear as performance anxiety, causing physical symptoms of anxiety when playing sports, dancing, playing a musical instrument, or performing on stage.

Though people may think of someone with social anxiety as a person who avoids parties and stays at home, many different things could cause them to suffer. They could be fine speaking in public, but have difficulty talking to strangers. Or they could have no trouble going to parties but struggle with dating or eating in front of other people. And social anxiety is more than just being “shy.” In fact, not everyone who has social anxiety is even quiet. Nor is social anxiety uncommon—it affects up to seven percent of Americans.

To find out some of the different ways people are affected by social anxiety, we asked members of our community to share something they do because of their social anxiety, something that others might not realize.

Here’s what they had to say:

  1. Having social anxiety is not the same thing as being shy.
    • “Most people think I’m being rude when I’m not talkative in a group of people. In reality, I’m terrified because my mind constantly tells me I’ll say the wrong thing.” — Maegan B.
    • “Being quiet—I’d rather listen to a conversation than be in one. I feel like whatever comes out of my mouth may seem stupid.”—Juliana G.
    • “I will either shut down completely and not talk and people think I’m not sociable. Or if I try to convince myself to appear ‘normal,’ I ramble and talk fast. It’s a lose-lose situation.” –Bryanna B.
    • “Coming across as completely cold, blunt, and uptight—when that’s in fact actually a direct result of the panic and sheer effort taken just to engage with that person—ironically, in what’s intended to be in a ‘normal’ way.” –Cat S.
  1. In fact, you can seem outspoken and bold, and still suffer from crippling social anxiety.
    • “Talking fast, rambling and joking around even though really I’ve zoned out, and I’m pretty much not there…I run on autopilot and later when I’ve grounded again I go through and recollect what I’ve said or done…a bit like after being drunk!”  –Suze A.
    • “I actually find myself talking a lot…in my mind I’m telling myself, be quiet, you’re talking too much, no one cares, everyone is judging you. But I get so anxious when I’m out with friends, and there is an awkward silence, or no one is talking. So, I feel the need to talk more even though I’m dying of panic and anxiety inside. Sometimes after large events, it takes me days of no social interaction or staying in bed to recuperate.”—Jessica G.
    • “Being loud, playing the joker, laughter. Anything that will draw away from the fact that I’m extremely agitated and struggling.”—Vikki M.
  1. Social anxiety is unpredictable.
    • “I don’t think most people realize that when I’m out with friends, and I suddenly leave, it’s because of anxiety. There’s always a moment when it’s just too overwhelming, and I have to go home.” –Lucas Z.
    • “I cancel plans, often last minute, not because I’m rude or necessarily don’t want to go, but because I’m afraid of going out in public sometimes, afraid of what’s going to happen, who’s going to look at me, am I going to be embarrassed, etc. And afterwards, I feel bad for missing out.” –Jessica S.
  1. Preparing for social interactions can take a long time.
    • “Practicing and practicing what I’m going to say on the phone and writing it down on a piece of paper before calling so if my anxiety becomes too much, I can just read my script.” –Leah O.
    • “I always prefer to make plans at least one day ahead. Every morning I mentally prepare for the day. It helps soothe any anxiety and is a comfort to know what to expect. It is difficult to be spontaneous, but as long as a friend lets me know they’d like to do something on a certain day, I can anticipate that social interaction, yet be flexible about exactly what we do, where we go, or when.” –Jessica D.
    • “Taking a long time to reply to emails, texts, etc., especially group messages, because I’m terrified of spelling something wrong or saying something that is incorrect or could come across as rude or mean. I’ve had misunderstandings in the past with these types of communication, and it scares me. I feel like everyone hates me already, and when I write something silly, I feel like they hate me even more.” –Keira H.
  1. Social anxiety isn’t a choice, and it isn’t just “all in your head.”
    • “I start to sweat, ridiculously, no matter the temperature. The worst is the sweat that breaks out on my upper lip because there’s just no hiding that. Before every job interview, I have legitimately wondered if this time I should go through with trying an antiperspirant on my upper lip.”—Angela J.
    • “I get upset before I have to go deal with people. This usually happens at home and is basically the adrenaline aggravating me, but I get snippy and can’t answer questions in any detail until I have to drive and therefore get distracted.” –Myrlyn B.
    • “Constantly watching the body language of everyone to see if I’m offending them just by breathing.”—Jennifer L.
    • “I zone out sometimes when there are too many stimulants. I just kind of go somewhere else in my head and am physically just there, usually staring at something weird, like a garbage can.” –Elaine W.
    • “I’ll play with my hair, purse, or anything I’m holding to relieve my nervous energy. I won’t even notice it sometimes until I’m holding a torn-up napkin.” —Katie M.

Social anxiety is a treatable mental health condition. Please reach out to The Center for Mental Health to get help at any time. One of our caring professional counselors can help you cope with anxiety, depression or feelings of being overwhelmed. For appointments, call 970-252-3200. For more information, visit www.centermh.org.

Written by Jennifer Wheeler, MSW, LCSW – OP/JBBS Therapist for The Center for Mental Health – Telluride
Our Future Courtyard (rendering)

Donation puts CMH over the top for courtyard improvement

By News

Donation puts Center for Mental Health over the top for courtyard improvement

The Center for Mental Health is a step closer to being able to complete an outdoor courtyard at its crisis walk-in center, with a $10,000 donation from QHR Health.

The donation, coupled with $5,000 from staff and community members on Colorado Gives Day; $1,000 from Rocky Mountain Health Foundation and $2,500 from the Montrose Community Foundation, puts the Center well above its fundraising goal for the project.

“As a nonprofit behavioral health provider, we depend upon the generosity of community partners, like QHR Health, to fund enhancements to our facilities. This donation will enable us to complete planned enhancements to our crisis walk-in center which provides urgent treatment for individuals who are in crisis due to overwhelming behavioral health challenges,” said Shelly Spalding, CEO for The Center for Mental Health. “The addition of the outdoor courtyard will provide much needed respite for those who are in our care.”

The new courtyard will provide safe, secure, outdoor access to CMH clients where they can benefit from fresh air, sun and the healing power of the outdoors. Currently, CMH clients who may stay for up to five days are unable to safely access an outdoor location.

“Our mission is to strengthen healthcare in rural communities by collaborating with partners to improve access to these services,” said Dwayne Gunter, CEO of QHR Health.

“Together with James Kiser, former CEO of Montrose Memorial Hospital, we are happy to help people in this region. CMH has proven that the need for mental health care was evident and they created a mental health-care resource that meets the needs of those who live on the Western Slope.”

The walk-in center is a life-saving, urgent behavioral healthcare resource serving the Western Slope’s six-county region. Those needing care may come in any time day or night without an appointment and regardless of their ability to pay. Since opening in the fall of 2019, this location has treated more than 1,000 clients, ages 12 to 90.

One element missing from facility is an area where those who are recovering can safely experience the healing power of the outdoors.

“Independent community hospitals and healthcare systems have challenges that are quite different from large, corporate healthcare facilities,” Gunter said.

“At QHR Health, most of us have worked in community hospitals, so we understand the issues communities face. We know the challenges and know that each hospital has its own unique set of demands. That is why the courtyard piqued our interest, it will be a unique but critical part of the healing process.”

This donation comes full circle for QHR Health, which was instrumental in a community needs assessment implemented a few years ago identifying the need for a facility like the crisis walk-in center Montrose. Previously, individuals in crisis needed to travel to Grand Junction or Denver to receive care.

Our Future Courtyard (rendering)

CMH Receives Generous Donation to Complete Outdoor Courtyard

By News, Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact
Jackie Brown-Griggs
303-300-2255

The Center for Mental Health Receives Generous Donation from QHR Health to Complete Planned Crisis Walk-In Center Outdoor Courtyard

January 20, 2021 — Montrose, CO — The Center for Mental Health (CMH) recently received a generous donation from QHR Health earmarked to complete the planned outdoor courtyard at CMH’s Crisis Walk-in Center.

“As a nonprofit behavioral health provider, we depend upon the generosity of community partners, like QHR Health, to fund enhancements to our facilities. This donation will enable us to complete planned enhancements to our Crisis Walk-In Center which provides urgent treatment for individuals who are in crisis due to overwhelming behavioral health challenges,” said Shelly Spalding, CEO for The Center for Mental Health. “The addition of the outdoor courtyard will provide much needed respite for those who are in our care.”

The new courtyard will provide safe, secure, outdoor access to CMH clients where they can benefit from fresh air, sun and the healing power of the outdoors. Currently, CMH clients who may stay for up to five days are unable to safely access an outdoor location.

“Our mission is to strengthen healthcare in rural communities by collaborating with partners to improve access to these services,” said Dwayne Gunter, CEO of QHR Health. “Together with James Kiser, former CEO of Montrose Memorial Hospital, we are happy to help people in this region. CMH has proven that the need for mental health care was evident and they created a mental health-care resource that meets the needs of those who live on the Western Slope.”

The Crisis Walk-in Center is a life-saving, urgent behavioral healthcare resource serving the Western Slope’s six-county region. Those needing care may come in any time day or night without an appointment and regardless of their ability to pay. Since opening in the fall of 2019, this location has treated more than 1,000 clients, ages 12 to 90. One element missing from the Walk-In Center is an area where those who are recovering can safely experience the healing power of the outdoors.

With a goal of raising $10,000 dollars for the project, CMH was successful in generating nearly $5,000 from staff and community donors on Colorado Gives Day, $1,000 from Rocky Mountain Health Foundation, $2,500 from Montrose Community Foundation and a significant $10,000 donation from QHR Health more than helped CMH exceed its goal.

“Independent community hospitals and healthcare systems have challenges that are quite different from large, corporate healthcare facilities,” adds Gunter. “At QHR Health, most of us have worked in community hospitals, so we understand the issues communities face. We know the challenges and know that each hospital has its own unique set of demands. That is why the courtyard piqued our interest, it will be a unique but critical part of the healing process.”

This donation comes full-circle for QHR Health, as they were instrumental in the Community Needs Assessment implemented a few years ago identifying the need for a facility like the Crisis Walk-in Center in Montrose. Previously, individuals in crisis needed to travel to Grand Junction or Denver to receive care.

About QHR Health
QHR Health is the industry’s leading health solutions provider serving independent, critical access and rural hospitals and health systems across the U.S. For more than 40 years, QHR Health has collaborated with clients to ensure that people in communities ranging from small rural towns, to larger population centers, have local access to quality healthcare services. A wholly-owned subsidiary of Quorum Health, QHR Health maintains a distinct business model with separate operations and a dedicated management team.

About The Center for Mental Health
The Center for Mental Health is a nonprofit organization seeking to promote mental health and well-being. It provides behavioral health services across 10,000 square miles including Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray, and San Miguel Counties. Visit www.centermh.org to learn more.

# # #

The Center for Mental Health courtyard
(before project begins)

The Center for Mental Health courtyard
(completed project rendering)

Pink frost-covered flowers

Mental Health Needs Surge

By News

Mental Health Needs Surge

Depression, substance abuse on the rise

If there’s any indicator as to the emotional toll the pandemic has taken, it’s the increased demand for mental health care.

The uncertainty, sadness and struggle to survive COVID-19 have led to an increase in mental health concerns including depression, substance abuse and suicidal ideation both nationwide and in the Gunnison Valley.

Gunnison County leaders last week during a virtual town hall took a closer look at how the community has fared since the start of the pandemic nine months ago.

They found that people of all ages are dealing with the difficulties of navigating the pandemic. For adults, unemployment, food insecurity and child care have been reported as top stressors. Teenagers are taking on uncertainty with class schedules and canceled events such as prom. And the elderly, who face the highest risk of severe COVID-19, are facing isolation and vulnerability like never before.

A Gunnison County business and community survey sent out this November found more than 58% of business owners report their mental health has declined since this time last year.

Nearly a quarter of the 560 respondents said they feel anxious and stressed “most of the time,” and another 26% reported an increase in alcohol consumption.

“Unfortunately we are seeing the same people here over and over again,” said Gunnison Valley Health Foundation Director Jenny Birnie of recent admissions to the hospital.

Birnie said GVH has seen a staggering 500% increase in admissions to its emergency rooms for behavioral issues among adults in 2020. Th e primary diagnoses include anxiety, suicide attempts or ideation, alcohol and opioid non-fatal overdose, depression and hallucinations.

Since January 2020, there has been an 18% increase in visits for suicidal ideation as well as a 10% increase in alcohol non-fatal overdoses for adults in Gunnison County.

Alcohol abuse has long been a problem for both adults and youth in the Gunnison Valley, said Director of Gunnison County Juvenile Services Kari Commerford.

A Healthy Kids Colorado survey from fall 2019 found that 27% of high school students in Gunnison County reported binge drinking (five or more drinks) in the past 30 days.

“This is significantly higher than regional, state and national figures,” Commerford said.

High school students who reported binge drinking expressed increased feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts.

Th ose figures have only continued to climb amid the pandemic, Commerford said.

Regional Director for The Center for Mental Health Kimberly Behounek said increased stress during an event such as a pandemic can result in diffi culty sleeping, concentrating and increased substance abuse.

Knowing where to get assistance for services ranging from testing to therapy and other resources is a good start to addressing mental health issues.

It’s important to know personal priorities and what works for the individual, said Behounek. Whether it’s going for a short walk or reading a book, it’s beneficial to know how to cope with continued stress.

“Your priorities may not be the norm, and that’s OK,” Behounek said.

Birnie acknowledged the hardships Gunnison County residents have faced in recent months but said she was grateful for the county’s current status.

“We’re actually in good shape compared to other communities,” Birnie said.

Gunnison Country Times
Kate Gienapp can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or kate@gunnisontimes.com
Gunnison Country Times | December 17, 2020
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What has been causing stress? (chart)

A recent survey in Gunnison County found financial insecurity to be the biggest stressor as the community continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy photo)

HEALTHY WAYS TO COPE WITH STRESS

Taking care of your emotional health will help you think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself and your family.

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or try a meditation exercise.
  • Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol and drug use.
  • Make time to unwind.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations. While social distancing measures are in place, consider connecting online, through social media, or by phone or mail.

LOCAL RESOURCES

GVH partnered with The Center for Mental Health (CMH) to gather certified peer support specialists that have overcome a mental health condition and mentor individuals who struggle with mental health, psychological trauma or substance abuse.

SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT

GVH Peer Specialist
Gunnison
970.642.4762

CMH Peer Specialist
Gunnison/Crested Butte
970.252.3200

The purchase of a designated vehicle for the mental health clinician will allow the clinician to respond autonomously, stay on scene to deliver patient services, and complete follow-up visits while freeing up officers for additional calls for service. Courtesy photo by William Woody (City of Montrose)

CMH launches mobile crisis service

By News

Center for Mental Health launches mobile crisis service

The Center for Mental Health Crisis Walk-in Center

The Center for Mental Health’s walk-in crisis clinic at 300 N. Cascade Ave. The center recently launched a mobile response program for those in crisis, who cannot access the clinic, and whose situation does not require a law enforcement response. (Montrose Daily Press file photo)

People in need of immediate mental health care can’t always access the Center for Mental Health’s resources, particularly in rural areas. Enter the center’s new mobile crisis response team.

“Our local crisis response program is a 24-hour a day program that works to help support someone who is in a crisis in the community — in their home, their school, or other community-based location — that, due to where they live or availability, that they are unable to come to our crisis walk-in center in Montrose,” chief clinical officer Amanda Jones said Wednesday, in introducing the new service to area law enforcement agencies.

The center operates a crisis stabilization clinic on North Cascade Avenue, in addition to its offices on Miami Road. Therapists have also stepped up to work as co-responders who travel with police agencies on calls where their services are needed.

The mobile crisis program is one more tool to help meet urgent mental health needs.

Trained professionals are sent out to de-escalate situations and stabilize the involved individual. The team conducts a crisis evaluation and then connects the patient to a clinician for an in-person or telehealth assessment. The team can then transport the patient to the crisis center, hospital or other facility, plus make a followup care plan.

People in crisis can call for help themselves; others can also call on behalf of someone else. The crisis team that receives the calls will evaluate the requests and then dispatch someone to help.

Calls can be made to the local crisis line at 970-252-6220 or to the state crisis line, 844-493-8255.

“That phone call is answered live,” said Heather Thompson, the center’s director of Nursing and Emergency Services.

“They basically triage the phone call and determine what needs to happen next. They can either talk to the person on the phone, try to get them to come to the (crisis walk-in) unit. If they’re not able tot come to the unit, a mobile crisis response is necessary.”

The Center for Mental Health’s walk-in crisis clinic at 300 N. Cascade Ave. The center recently launched a mobile response program for those in crisis, who cannot access the clinic, and whose situation does not require a law enforcement response. (Montrose Daily Press file photo)The service launched early this week; already, there have been a few crisis responses, Thompson said.

“It really is a community-based response,” Jones said.

The service is available 24/7 in Montrose, Delta, Gunnison, Montrose, Ouray and Hinsdale counties. It is available to people of all ages and regardless of insurance or ability to pay, thanks to state investment.

“We should not be needing to work out someone’s ability to pay for a service when they are needing that level of an immediate response,” Jones said.

The program comes with support from the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health, which allows a response time of up to two hours in “frontier” communities such as Montrose and the other counties; Jones said that for areas in Montrose and Delta, the response time is likely to be much quicker.

Although the function is similar to the co-responder model, the new mobile crisis team is different — professionals still deploy to a person in need, but the idea is to avoid having to use law enforcement.

“Part of the goal of mobile response is that we are able to screen and, hopefully, deploy our team to a situation without the need for law enforcement. That is what is a little bit different from a mobile response and a co-response model,” Jones said.

The center uses established guidelines to determine when its professionals can safely respond without law enforcement support.

“The goal is that once there is a mobile response, that we are also able, if the individual is safe for transport, that we can transport them to our crisis stabilization unit, a psychiatric hospital location, again, with an intention of taking primary pressures from law enforcement around the need of response or requests for transportation,” Jones said.

The mobile crisis response can be used when the location of the individual in crisis is clear; he or she is willing to speak with a clinician; there is no risk of harm to self or others; no medical concerns and the individual cannot access the walk-in clinic.

A law enforcement response will be needed when unsecured weapons are at the scene; there are unsecured aggressive animals; a domestic dispute is in progress or the person is aggressive or violent toward others.

When a person is actively harming himself or herself, other others; attempting suicide; having a medical emergency; in unresponsive, or is significantly impaired by drugs, medication or alcohol, 911 should be called.

Montrose Daily Press
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.
Montrose Daily Press | November 21, 2020
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Beer glasses (photo)

Be alert for risks of ‘gray area’ drinking

By News

Expert: Be alert for risks of ‘gray area’ drinking

Isolation and stress exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic are also fueling a sneaky risk — “gray area drinking.”

Gray area drinking falls between abstinence and alcohol abuse and the term is used to describe situations in which people drink more than they intended, or of which they are aware, in response to stressors. It can prime the pump for substance abuse issues: Where before, it was a glass of wine with dinner, then an extra one, suddenly, the person is drinking much more for the same effect.

“It’s often a problem for individuals. It’s an easy thing to overlook — just having a second glass of wine or another beer, and maybe you didn’t have that intent in the first place,” said Kathleen Burnell, director of Substance Use Services at The Center for Mental Health.

“Oftentimes, it is paired with other stressors. We have a lot of stress right now. There’s financial stress; there’s health stress; separation and worry about family members. There is a political division going on, which can lead to stress as well, because of the tension. People find themselves looking for a way to relax.”

When dealing with stressors, people don’t always pay as much attention as they should to how much of a substance they are consuming, Burnell said: “And that’s where gray drinking starts to sneak in.”

Signs of gray area drinking may include worry and regret about drinking; being able to stop drinking but finding it hard to stay stopped; drinking that doesn’t appear to be problematic to others and rationalization that swings between a self-admonition to stop drinking and the idea to “live a little,” according to an op-ed Burnell published in August.

One of the first signs drinking is becoming a problem might be an impact on daily routine, Burnell said Monday — such as sleeping later in the morning because of how much one has had to drink; socializing only with friends who also drink or getting less enjoyment out of family time.

“If you find yourself worrying about drinking or how much you drank, generally, worry is our mind’s way of warning us something is going on,” Burnell said.

That extends beyond alcohol, to other substances such as tobacco.

Another warning sign is using more alcohol to achieve the same effect as before — gray area drinking can ratchet up due to the way substances work in the human body.

Burnell also says to be alert to such behavior as self-rationalization, or putting off a task that needs to be done just to accommodate drinking or other substance use.

Legal involvement — being pulled over for being under the influence — is a red flag.

“Something that we’re seeing nationwide is an increase, overall, in substance use,” Burnell said. Isolation has been shown as a major factor.

“We’ve seen that all year long. By feeling disconnected, we tend to get a little less joy out of life and find ourselves looking for a few more coping mechanisms.”

Having more than one outlet for stress is important.

“When we do something like drinking, if it becomes our only tool to relax, then it is not helping us. Often, we get more satisfaction from a relaxing activity if we have more than one choice,” Burnell said.

The Center for Mental Health offers group and individual help to those struggling with substance use and gray area drinking. Help is available by phone, telemedicine or in person, with COVID-19 safety protocols. Call 970-252-3200 to learn more about these options.

Those who are feeling stressed or worried can access a 24-hour hotline at 970-252-6220.

The center also offers free online assessments at www.centermh.org/help. Access the free online tool “myStrength” at www.centermh.org/mystrength for wellness tools and strategies for self-care.

“We’re trying to connect with people wherever they’re at,” Burnell said.

She also acknowledged people are worried for their friends or loved ones who may have fallen into gray area drinking or outright substance abuse.

“We very much care about the people in our lives. It’s hard to sit there and see something where you want to say something,” she said.

Again, people can access support and strategies through the Center for Mental Health.

“We know we can’t make other people change, but by being there alongside them while they are evaluating what they want to do with their lives can be really valuable,” Burnell said.

Montrose Daily Press
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.
Montrose Daily Press | November 18, 2020
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