Category

CMH Blog

Socially Connected While Physically Distanced During COVID-19

By CMH Blog

Part of the code of the west is the spirit of neighbors helping neighbors. It’s often understood within the code that we should look out for our own, be courageous, and help others in need, and residents across the 6 counties we serve have been doing just that by practicing proper precautions to stem the spread of COVID-19. We’re washing our hands regularly, wearing masks, and practicing physical distancing when out and about.  

With these precautions in place and even as they loosen in some places, it can be tough to maintain our social connections with others, which can leave us feeling vulnerable, alone, and depressed. Social connections are as important as health precautions, leaving us with the question of how to practice physical distancing while also maintaining vital social connections. Luckily, we have many options for staying connected during this time. Here are some we’ve picked up along the way.  

In your home:

  • Reconnect with your family. Do things you haven’t had the time to do before. 
  • Teach kids life skills like baking, laundry, ordering food, cleaning the bathroom, or mowing the lawn. 
  • Play games together—there are so many options, from board games, to puzzles, to video games, and lawn games. 
  • Plant a garden. Maybe start vegetables that you can use in cooking dinner together.  

In your neighborhood:

  • Driveways, yards, cul-de-sacs, and sidewalks make great places to picnic with neighbors while still staying six feet apart. 
  • Kids can stay connected too by creating sidewalk chalk art, blowing bubbles, having water fights, and painting colorful rocks to place around the neighborhood.  
  • Have neighbors create chalk art on their driveways and host a “gallery walk” where people stroll by to check out the artistic creations. 
  • Kids can use washable markers to draw or play games with friends on either side of windows or storm doors. 
  • Host a neighborhood scavenger hunt, looking for items that are visible from the sidewalk. 

Online: 

Attend a class or event virtually. Gyms, museums, zoos, and other places are offering services, classes, attractions, tours and more virtually. And many of these events are free.  

Stay connected with friends and family. 

  • Have virtual check-ins or virtual happy hours. Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts are all good options for talking with friends and family and seeing their faces. 
  • Start the day with friends and coffee or host an end-of-the-day get together. 
  • Join a virtual watch party of a movie or show. 
  • Host a digital dinner party and include a virtual cooking lesson of the main dish. 
  • Read grandkids a bedtime story over video chat. 
  • Play your favorite board game with friends online. Try Tabletop Simulator—a program that allows people to play virtually any game. Popular games available include backgammon, chess, and mahjong, along with Settlers of Catan. Or try Twitch, a streaming platform that allows people a place to get together online and chat while playing games or watching others do so. Discorda free voice and text chat app, is primarily focused on audio, so you can talk with your friends while playing your game together. 
  • Take up the lost art of letter-writing—there’s something truly special about receiving a personal, handwritten letter in the mail, instead of the regular mailers and advertisements.  

Physical distancing shouldn’t mean total isolation. Following health guidelines for maintaining safe distancing becomes much easier with all of the options we have for staying connected. And being a good neighbor, friend, and family member means helping others in need. Despite all of our ways of connecting, this can be a difficult time. If you, or someone you know, seems to be struggling with mental health, please reach out to them and offer help.  

If you are feeling lonely or worried, we offer 24/7 phone support via The Center Support Line at 970-252-6220. If you would like to learn more about treatment options, reach out to The Center for Mental Health at 970.252.3200.  

We offer access to a free online screening tool here. 

We also offer free access to an online mental health support tool called myStrength. Learn more here. 

 

Written by Ed Hagins, Deputy Director of Operations & Special Projects, The Center for Mental Health

Young man with glass of whiskey at home (photo)

Drinking Habits During COVID-19

By CMH Blog

A slippery slope: using alcohol to cope with loneliness or isolation during COVID-19

In many ways, COVID has brought us closer: we’re laughing over interruptions from our pets and children while on Zoom, we’re sharing resources, and many of us are joining virtual happy hours to connect with our friends and loved ones. But what happens when the phone battery dies, the internet connection is unstable, or we feel like it’s just not the same as being with someone in person?

Suddenly, loneliness and isolation return, and we look for relief elsewhere. Maybe it feels like time to have another beer and stream a new show; suddenly, hours have passed and we’ve drunk a six-pack. Or we’ve opened a bottle of wine to have a glass with dinner, and we decide we might as well finish the bottle. Our current situation has led many of us to turn to alcohol as a way to cope, leading us into what’s called “gray area drinking.”

Gray Area Drinking
Gray area drinking isn’t the same as excessive drinking, which includes both heavy drinking and binge drinking. The CDC defines heavy drinking as 8 or more drinks a week for women, and 15 or more drinks for a man. Binge drinking is defined as having 4 or more drinks in a 2-3 hour period for women, and as having 5 or more drinks for men.

In her TedTalk on gray area drinking, Ms. Park, the founder of Healthy Discoveries, describes her own experience with gray area drinking: she’d quit drinking for a while and then wonder why she was being so restrictive. She’d start drinking again, thinking she could have a single glass of wine, and find herself finishing the whole bottle in an evening. She’d drink wine most evenings, which put her into the excessive drinking category defined by the CDC. She was engaged in gray area drinking—the space between occasional drinking and rock bottom drinking. Gray area drinkers function capably, don’t usually have major consequences to their drinking, like a DUI or losing a job, but their drinking is problematic.

Right now, we can feel disconnected, worried, isolated, and scared, and in our desire to cope with our feelings, we sometimes turn to alcohol. How can we determine if we might be in that gray area? Ms. Park outlines the following five signs:

  1. You silently worry about, and regret, your drinking.
  2. You drink between two extremes: you’re not at rock bottom, but you aren’t an occasional drinker either.
  3. You can stop drinking and you have stopped drinking for periods of time—even weeks or months—but it’s hard to stay stopped.
  4. Your drinking often doesn’t look problematic to those around you.
  5. You ricochet between telling yourself to stop drinking, and deciding that you’re overthinking and you just need to “live a little.”

How to Make a Change
Gray area drinking can be a slippery slope, and stressful times, like a pandemic, can make the slope even slipperier. What else can we do to fend off isolation instead of reaching for a drink? Ms. Park suggests the following:

  1. Ask yourself what you really want.
    Alcohol often feels like an escape from frustration, anxiety, and stress. Instead of drinking, we can ask ourselves what is driving our desire to drink and what we really need. What do we feel is lacking? More quiet time? More connection? Do we want more fun, purpose, or intimacy? We need to recognize that alcohol won’t give us any of those things. As we give ourselves more of what we’re really craving, the perceived need for alcohol will diminish.
  2. Add a few new things to your life
    Once you’ve made the decision to take a break from alcohol, look at what you can add in. Maybe it’s time to foster spiritual growth or new relationships. Start a new exercise routine, finally cook that meal you’ve always wanted to try, or take time to develop your emotional and spiritual well-being.

Using substances to cope is not unusual, and this pandemic is making it more common, but there are things you can do to cope. If you think you need more help, you are not alone, and there is a lot of help and support available to you.

Useful Resources
If you are feeling lonely or worried, we offer 24/7 phone support via The Center Support Line at 970.252.6220.

If you would like to learn more about treatment options, reach out to The Center for Mental Health at 970.252.3200.

Take a free, online assessment at centermh.org/help.

We also offer free access to an online mental health support tool called myStrength at centermh.org/mystrength.

Sources
Jolene Park, TedTalk: Gray Area Drinking: ted.com/talks/jolene_park_gray_area_drinking
CDC definitions of excessive drinking: cdc.gov/alcohol/pdfs/excessive_alcohol_use.pdf
Telephone support line

Coping with Grief During COVID-19

By CMH Blog

During this time of uncertainty amid the pandemic, we are in grief—we’re grieving all sorts of losses, big and small: the loss of expectations, the loss of normalcy, the loss of vacations, graduations, physical connections, even grocery shopping as we used to know it. Many people I know are also grieving the loss of a loved one, whether through the pandemic or through some other means. I recently lost my mother-in-law to ovarian cancer, and in some strange way, we were lucky enough to lose her before the pandemic set in. We were able to visit with her in the hospital, to be together as a family during her illness and death, and to participate in many of the traditional and comforting rituals such as holding a funeral with several hundred mourners and a lovely celebration of life afterwards where our family gathered to meet
with extended family and friends.

Yet even though we were able to begin the grieving process this way, the pandemic has magnified it and made it that much more difficult, especially considering all the many little things that we are grieving now as well. I have cycled through the stages of grief outlined by Swiss-American psychiatrist Kübler-Ross whose 1969 book
On Death and Dying argued that grief could be divided into five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Her theory of grief is the most widely known, though there are others. Not everyone goes through all the stages of grief, nor do they necessarily process them in the order listed by Kübler-Ross. Members of my family experienced her death differently, but it was clear that we were, and still are, experiencing the stages of grief outlined by Kübler-Ross. And the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic has made the grieving process that much more difficult.

For those of us who have lost loved ones during this time, or are experiencing grief in many parts of our lives, often unexpectedly, how do we deal with that grief in a healthy way when many of our traditional, comforting routines and rituals have been upset by this pandemic?

Though the magnitude of the events we’re grieving may differ greatly, from the loss of a milestone like graduation to the loss of a loved one, there are things we can do to help us process the grief in a healthy way.

Families of students who were poised to graduate and move on to a new and exciting stage in their lives have found other ways to celebrate than through the traditional parties and ceremonies. Sharing photos and memories virtually, through social media, has become an endearing and charming way to support graduating students. And it may help to bring us together—there’s nothing like chuckling over graduation pictures that are twenty to thirty years old to support students graduating now. Sharing those embarrassing and funny memories creates new connections and webs of support.

The family of a friend who lost her father-in-law maintained the rite of passage of a burial for him—it looked different, of course, given the restrictions and concerns of the pandemic. They held a Zoom burial; family members were able to say prayers and to bear witness to the ceremony as they said goodbye to her father-in-law. They were able to feel supported and loved, and to show the love and grief over the loss of a loved one, by seeing their family members on the phone with them.

Whatever kind of grief you’re experiencing right now, know that many others are grieving with you. Some of the following might be helpful to deal with our grief during this uncertain time:

  1. Spend time texting and talking on the phone with others. We all crave connection, and though it isn’t quite the same as seeing someone in person, it is still a valuable way to connect.
  2. Share funny childhood photos—this helps to enable the sharing and processing of memories, whether in the celebration of a graduation and new start, or in the commemoration of a loved one who has passed away.
  3. Share memories, stories, hopes, goals, and plans. Envision what these goals and plans will look like in action when the time comes.
  4. If you are mourning the loss of a loved one, know that there will be a time that you will be able to come together with friends and family to celebrate the life of your loved one. Take the time to plan for this and imagine what it will look like.
  5. Be sure to take time for yourself. If you live with others, it can be difficult to find time alone. Try to carve out time to take a walk, watch a movie that you enjoy, read a book you’ve wanted to but haven’t had the time to.
  6. Eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and get physical activity. Get outside—the fresh air will be good for you.
  7. Take time for yourself to do those things that make you happy and allow you to push forward in your life.

It can be hard to deal with the loss of something or someone in the best of times. Unusual circumstances like a pandemic can magnify that loss and difficulty with coping. If you find that you are really struggling to cope, seek professional help. Let us help you find a support group, reach out to The Center Support Line, or look into therapy
services with us.

The Center Support Line: 970.252.6220

A free, 24-hour talk line is open to our community during difficult times. If you are feeling stressed, anxious, or just need someone to talk to, call — we can help. Call 970.252.3200 to learn more or to make an appointment.

Written by Kate Hurley, The Center for Mental Health

Grief Resources

The Center for Mental Health maintains a free, 24-7 support line for those experiencing grief, or anyone feeling anxious or in need of a listening ear: 970-252-6220 or centermh.org/supportline.

The center also hosts live Facebook chats for coping with COVID. For new and current clients, the center has secure, tele-therapy sessions available. Call 970-252-3200 to learn more about same-day access services or visit centermh.org.

The center’s walk-in crisis center remains open for those experiencing a behavioral health crisis; location is 300 N. Cascade Avenue, Montrose.

People in crisis can also call 970-252-6220 or 844-493-8255.

Angry man working at home

Why am I so angry?

By CMH Blog

Coping with anger during COVID-19

I was already frustrated as I looked around to see the dishes left on the kitchen, the papers scattered everywhere, and my children attached to electronic devices. When my thirteen-year-old son asked me to get him yet another sandwich and glass of milk while he played on his computer, I lost it. I exploded, yelling that he could get off his butt and get his own darn sandwich. He stared at me in shock, and it took me a minute to calm down before I could apologize. Yelling had felt good, like letting off steam that had been building to an unbearable pressure point. Clearly, I was angry. But why was I that angry at something that seems so typical?

Anger is often considered a “secondary emotion”— meaning we feel some other emotion first. We use anger to protect ourselves or to mask other vulnerable feelings. Of course, anger is a natural, instinctive response to real, immediate threats, like being mugged. But when it’s not, it can be part of the five stages of grief (see Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross On Death and Dying): denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. For me, my anger comes from denial—at first, I was hopeful that school wouldn’t be canceled for my kids; then I thought it wouldn’t last that long. But as the time has expanded by weeks, and then for the rest of the school year, I can no longer deny that this is my new normal. And I guess that made me mad.

Other people are surely experiencing the same thing—maybe we’re angry because we’re separated from loved ones, or we’re worried about the coronavirus; maybe we’re worried about our jobs, or about the uncertainty of these times. It’s about all of that for me, but even as I enjoy the unexpected time with my children, I mourn for the way things used to be. And yet, I know that anger isn’t the answer; that for me, it’s a reaction to a secondary underlying emotion—fear, grief, denial—and that if I blow up on my children, I’ll not only damage my relationships with them, I’ll teach them that it’s acceptable to take your anger out on someone else instead of learning to manage it productively. As I’ve learned, unresolved anger leads to all sorts of problems, from heart disease and a weakened immune system, to high blood pressure and insomnia.

It’s hard to stop yourself before you blow up on someone—it takes self-awareness and discipline. Examining your feelings, taking five minutes before responding, or waiting overnight to respond if possible are all appropriate ways to handle your anger. Managing emotions is key to health and happiness; knowing what you can control, and what you cannot, is also critical. And knowing that you can express your emotions—call a friend, a mentor, or reach out for professional help when you need to. We now offer The Center Support Line, a 24/7 phone line at 970-252-6220, for those times when you just need to talk through what’s going on and get some tools for coping.

For me, I’ve discovered that if I am able to carve out alone time for myself, I am much better able to manage my anger. I take the early morning time to exercise, to do the things that I can’t during the day. Now, when my children ask me to get them some food for the hundredth time a day, I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and say, “there’s plenty of food in the kitchen; I’m sure you can get something that you’ll enjoy. And won’t it feel good to be independent?!”

If you are interested in learning about our services or more information, call us at 970-252-3200 or visit www.centermh.org.

Written by Kimberly Behounek and Kate Hurley, The Center for Mental Health

Managing Anxiety with COVID-19

By CMH Blog

These days, it seems impossible to go anywhere, listen to anything, or watch any shows without hearing about the COVID-19 outbreak.

Though I wasn’t particularly concerned about this virus at first, I have become increasingly anxious as wide-spread closures occur. Going to the grocery store has become an anxiety-producing event because of the empty shelves and the general air of panic. My rising anxiety has become intense enough that I have had to develop strategies for managing it. So as a parent, a community member, and a concerned citizen, I have found the following to be helpful:

  1. As much or as little as you need to, limit the time you spend taking in information about COVID-19 via the media or through contact with other people as you are able. Take note when the information becomes too much for you and stop for the day. (For me, this means that I can spend no more than fifteen minutes checking the latest updates from the county, the school district, or the Center for Disease Control before I have to get off social media because I can feel my anxiety levels rising.)
  2. Try to maintain a routine, preferably one as close to your normal routine as possible. Stay hydrated, eat at least two small meals with protein daily, exercise, and rest.
  3. Follow the suggested guidelines—it stresses me out to see neighborhood kids congregating together when we’ve been told to practice social distancing. Even though it’s hard to keep the kids from playing with their friends, it may be even more stressful for others to see that people aren’t following the rules. We want to work together to help everyone out.
  4. Be kind and considerate to others—it’s amazing what a little kindness does to ease everyone’s fears and anxiety. Really consider whether you need all that toilet paper. Maybe try using less instead of buying more.
  5. Spend your day engaged in activities that bring you joy. This could be horseback riding, doing yoga, cooking, or going for a walk while maintaining the social distancing guidelines. Don’t forget to smile and say hello to those you see.
  6. If you’re working from home, take breaks to check in with friends and family, play a game, watch fun videos, or meditate.
  7. Control your thoughts – focus on the positive. This could be a daily gratitude or mindfulness practice. Be aware your focus may be shorter than on “regular” days; that is to be expected.
  8. Call, Facetime, Skype, text or otherwise connect with people you care about.
  9. Laugh and be silly. Laughter creates endorphins for the body that help you feel good.
  10. Rely on your belief system. Remind yourself of what you believe. Focus on that because this too shall pass.

If each of us can manage our anxiety a little more, we may help others to manage theirs. I know how much it helps me to connect with people who are calm and steady during a situation like this. I hope that by managing my own anxiety, I can be that steadying presence for others.

If you find that you need someone to talk to, or are having trouble managing your own stress or anxiety, call new The Center Support Line at 970.252.6220 or call 970.252.3200 to ask about setting up an appointment via phone or video.

Written by Kimberly Behounek, Regional Director of Gunnison and Hinsdale Counties, The Center for Mental Health

Couple having conversation

Substance Use: A Closer Look

By CMH Blog

Understanding Substance Use – A Closer Look 

Why do we use substances such as alcohol and drugs? Drugs flood the brain with feel-good chemicals and turn off the parts of our brain that worry and stress. For many people, and in small doses, this substance use never becomes a problem. But for a lot people, substance use can be a big problem. The brain starts to rely on the drug to feel better; and sometimes we can’t feel good, or even okay, without having the drug in our system. This is when substance use becomes more than just use: it becomes a way of life.

Why does addiction happen?

There are two prevailing theories on addiction, or substance use disorder (SUD): the biological theory and the social-emotional theory.

Biological Theory
In the biological theory, substances such as drugs or alcohol interact with chemicals, called neurotransmitters, that are naturally produced by the human brain. These neurotransmitters are responsible for our emotions, our stress reactions, and ultimately, our survival. When we use a substance, it either triggers or imitates some of the neurotransmitters already in our brains. This is why drugs can seem so effective: because they work just like we do! This is also why drugs can be problematic: because sometimes they work more efficiently than we do, causing us to prefer them, or because they change the way our brains produce these chemicals, causing us to rely on them just to feel “normal.”

Treatment from this biological perspective consists of abstinence from substances, cognitive behavioral skills to change thoughts and behavior related to substance use, and sometimes medication to give the brain a boost in restoring those neurotransmitters.
For more detailed information on the biological model, check out the book Never Enough by Judith Grisel, Ph.D. or watch her videos on YouTube.

Social-Emotional Theory
The second major theory of addiction is the social-emotional theory. This theory explains that we use substances to change the way we feel in any given moment. Using substances to change how we feel is a long-standing human behavior that we’ve been doing for thousands of years through different methods. Much of the time addiction develops when unpleasant and uncomfortable situations persist: physical and emotional pain, isolation, poverty, interpersonal conflict, or pretty much any situation you can think of that you wouldn’t want to be in anymore.

Treatment from this social-emotional perspective consists of the methods mentioned above, plus learning how to manage emotions, dealing with painful memories and feelings, and building community and fulfillment.

For a wonderful description of this perspective, check out the TED Talk by Johann Hari, Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong.

How can I change my substance use?

There are as many versions of recovery as there are ways to use. For some people recovery means achieving sobriety to meet conditions set by someone else in their life — a loved one, an employer, a case worker, or a probation officer. For others, recovery means using substances that do less physical harm to them and reducing the risk of serious injury or death. And for some people, recovery means understanding what reasons led them to use in the first place, resolving those reasons, learning new skills, and moving forward in a new life. There is no wrong way to recover if it’s what you want to do. No matter how you want your substance use to be different, help is available if you want it (and sometimes if you don’t. We’re persistent). Peer support groups, treatment options, and the recovery community are ready to welcome you and help you answer your questions.

How can I help someone I care about?

Talk to them. Tell them you’re worried about them. Offer support, even if you don’t understand what they’re going through, and you think you would do something different if you were in their situation. Being there, loving and accepting them for who they are right this very moment, is the best thing you can do for your loved one. That’s not always possible, and that’s okay. Be honest with yourself about how you can show up for your loved one, and then be honest with them about it. If you need to care from a distance, there are other ways to support them. Send them this post! Share some resources you think they might be interested in. Do your own research so you can grow your understanding of their perspective.

Feel free to reach out to The Center at 970.252.3200, or drop by a local meeting if that’s more your speed. If you’re looking for more information before you reach out, you can also check out findtreatment.gov or nami.org.

People participating in group therapy

Substance Use Disorder 101

By CMH Blog

What is substance use disorder?

Substance use happens when we use things like alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs to help us cope with something in our lives.  When that use gets out of control, has a negative impact on other parts of your life, or becomes less effective, causing you to use more, that’s called substance use disorder.  Substance use disorder, often referred to as SUD or addiction, is common and treatable.

What does substance use treatment mean?

Many people think of rehabilitation, or rehab, when they hear the word “treatment,” but in reality, that is just one of many kinds of substance use treatments.  You might hear some of the following treatment terms: outpatient, intensive outpatient, community-based, partial hospitalization, inpatient, residential, rehab, co-occurring, evidence-based, and individualized.  Sounds like a lot, right?  Here’s a breakdown:

Outpatient—is a term used to describe services that take place at an office location.  That’s it!

Intensive outpatient—these services also take place at an office location, but for anywhere from 9-15 hours per week.

Community-based—these services occur in your community.  Yup, this one is straightforward too.

Partial hospitalization—these services usually take place at a structured environment during the day only. Participants typically go home at night.

Inpatient—these services take place in a structured, hospital environment, and participants spend the night there.  These programs are usually 3-30 days long.

Residential—these services take place in a structured environment that is less medical in nature than a hospital.  These programs are usually 1-6 months long.

Rehab—short for rehabilitation, this term usually refers to either inpatient or residential programs.

Co-occurring—these are services that involve both substance use and mental health treatments.  Co-occurring treatments are often where the “why we use” stuff comes in.

Evidence-based— this term means that the treatment approaches used by a program have been studied and proven to be effective in treating the identified problem.

Individualized— this term means that treatment goals and programs are designed to focus on the unique needs of each participant.

Whew!  That’s a lot of vocabulary.  So, what does The Center for Mental Health offer for substance use treatment?

The Center offers a range of services in the different communities we serve.  All of our offices offer individual counseling; most locations offer group counseling as well.  At the Montrose office, we offer a co-occurring treatment program with different tracks for different stages of recovery; we also offer individualized treatments made up of individual and group counseling for substance use, mental health, and co-occurring specific goals.  Our team uses evidence-based approaches to help our clients meet their unique goals. Finally, the recovery community offers many types of support, from peer groups to sober activities and more.

I have questions… a LOT of questions.

That’s great!  Questions are welcome.  Feel free to reach out to The Center at 970.252.3200, or drop by a local meeting if that’s more your speed.  The recovery community is waiting to welcome you.

If you’re looking for more information before you reach out, you can also check out findtreatment.gov or nami.org. Also, check out our Peer Support Programs as well.

 

Group of teenagers

Welcome to Rainbow Space

By CMH Blog

Welcome to Rainbow Space: A Safe, Supportive Place for LGBTQ+ Youth in Montrose

Rainbow Space: A Safe, Supportive Place for LGBTQ+ Youth in MontroseSo, you’ve been hearing around town about this Rainbow Space, but you find yourself thinking, “What in the world is that?” Rainbow Space is a safe zone for LGBTQ+ youth in middle and high school to hang out and support one another. It is hosted at the Youth Access Center (YAC) every Wednesday from 4pm-6pm. Our mission is to offer a safe, nonjudgmental, and visible space for LGBTQ+ youth, families, and allies in our community.

Each week, we provide a place for teens to come together with like-minded others for fun, food, games, support, community guest presentations, and more! At Rainbow Space, teens can find a supportive adult to talk to, learn more about LGBTQ+ topics in a friendly environment, and find ways to deal with the stress of being a teenager.

Now you find yourself thinking, “Does Montrose need this? Here? Really?”

The answer to this is yes, and here’s why. Research shows that when LGBTQ+ teens form a relationship with a supportive adult, their risk of suicide drops from 57% to 4%. Further, their reported life-satisfaction increases from 33% to 72%. But those are just a bunch of numbers. What are teens themselves saying about Rainbow Space? Check out what they think in their own words:

  • “This is my favorite part of the week; I look forward to every Wednesday so I can come here.”
  • “Before Rainbow Space, I had never been around other LGBTQ people my age.”
  • “I was nervous to come because I am very anxious around new people, but everyone here is so welcoming and supportive, I feel like I have already made new friends.”
  • “I feel safe and supported here.”
  • “I don’t have any friends.” — “I don’t ever want to hear you say that again, you have friends now, and it’s all of us.”

So yes, Rainbow Space is important. It is helping teens to stay alive, to feel connected and supported.  Now that you’re on board, how can you help support Rainbow Space?

  • Attend – If you are a middle schooler or high schooler in Montrose or the surrounding area, come out and join us. We meet every Wednesday from 4pm-6pm at the Youth Access Center (YAC, inside of CASA) at 147 N. Townsend Ave., Montrose.
  • Promote – Tell your friends, your kids, your kid’s friends: we want everyone in town to know about us!
  • Follow Us Online – We are on social media! Be sure to “like” and “follow” our pages on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat for the latest info.
  • Volunteer – We are always accepting new adult mentors. Please reach out to us at RainbowSpaceMontrose@Outlook.com to find out more about our volunteer process.
  • Donate – We are always accepting financial donations to support our group. If money isn’t your thing, we also accept donations of hot meals to be served at our community dinner. Please reach out to us at RainbowSpaceMontrose@Outlook.com if you would like to donate.
Girls drinking coffee at Christmas

4 Things NOT to Say to Those Coping With Substance Use

By CMH Blog

4 Things Not to Say to Someone Who Struggles with Substance Use Over the Holidays (and 4 Things to Say Instead)

The holidays are a challenging time for many of us. This is especially true for friends and family who may be struggling to overcome addictions or with the unhealthy use of cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol. Below are ways to start conversations this holiday season that are more productive and are less painful to those struggling with addictions.

Use the following suggestions to get those conversations off on the right foot.

1. Rather than asking, “Why haven’t you stopped that already?”
Try this instead: “I can see that you’re trying to make some changes. I’m happy for you!”

For many people, recovery from using a substance is a long journey. Whether it is cigarettes, alcohol, or heroin, it’s rarely easy to change. Substance use is more than just a behavior that we can choose to start or stop. Substances have an impact on the way our brains work, forcing us to change our brain chemistry AND our patterns of behavior when we stop using them. This isn’t easy! If you have a family member who is trying to change their substance use, this may be a big challenge for them, and they need your support. Recognizing that someone is making an effort can have a big impact.

2. Rather than saying, “That’s disgusting.”
Try this instead: “I appreciate that you’re trying to cut back. Let’s catch up some more inside when you have a minute.”

Some substances can be pretty unpleasant. For example, not everyone enjoys the aroma of cigarette smoke. The loved one who is using knows this and they’re not trying to be disrespectful. If being around it bothers you feel free to move away, but make sure your loved one understands that it’s not them you’re moving away from, it’s the substance.

Substance use can be perpetuated by feelings of shame. Telling someone they are gross, or that they smell, or that they are a failure for still using will not help them to change their use. In fact, it can make that use worse.

3. Rather than saying, “You know, my coworker’s nephew’s neighbor’s roommate tried hypnotism / acupuncture / medication / therapy / dancing naked under the full moon and it worked great for him. You should try it!”
Try this instead: “How can I support you?”

There are tons of different options for treating substance use. There are medical interventions, evidence-based therapy practices, alternative medicines, peer recovery programs, and more. Unlike those ugly holiday socks, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for substance use. What worked for your coworker’s nephew’s neighbor’s roommate might work for your family member, or it might not. You certainly don’t want them to feel like a failure if they have already tried that hypnotism/acupuncture/medication/therapy option and it didn’t work for them. The best thing you can do is offer support for your loved one. It’s best to offer suggestions only when asked.

4. Rather than saying, “Don’t come over until you’re off of that stuff.”
Try this instead: “I want you to know that I care about you. Want to get some coffee?”

Maybe you’re really not comfortable with any substance use, or you have a child with an allergy to cigarette smoke. There may be any number of other reasons that you’re not ready to open your home to your loved one who is still struggling. It is possible to set a clear boundary and still be supportive. If the boundary means spending time together outside of your home, then that’s fine! Just be sure to follow through. If you say you’re going to get some coffee, then get some coffee. Show your family member that even though you don’t accept their use of substances, you still accept them as a person.

Want more information? Visit findtreatment.gov and nami.org for more resources for family members. If you have questions, feel free to reach out to The Center for Mental Health to learn more about the treatments we offer at 970.252.3200 or visit our website at centermh.org.

Happy person with arms up in field

Let’s talk… about hope, help, and suicide prevention

By CMH Blog

Kate Hurley, Staff Writer

Note: September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Suicide affects every one of us — whether it’s someone we know or someone in our community, whether it’s a completed suicide or an attempt, whether we hear about it on the news or worry that someone we know and love might be in danger of hurting themselves.

Personally, I have been impacted by suicides like my high school boyfriend’s dad; an ex-boyfriend; a dear friend. Even though it was years ago, I still remember the death of my boyfriend’s dad. It devastated the family and the community, and it created shock waves that continue to ripple today. We all wish we could have prevented a suicide and wonder if we missed signs or could have done more.

A friend of mine and a suicide-survivor, Randy*, recently shared his story with me. Not only was it a powerful wake-up call for me about the need to learn the risk factors and warning signs for the risk of suicide, it gave me hope that help was out there, that I could actually do something.

Randy had gone to a bridge to commit suicide. He walked back and forth for hours. Tourists streamed past him, but nobody stopped him to ask if anything was wrong. Finally, he raced to the railing and jumped over. And as soon as his hands left the railing, he was filled with regret.

Eventually, he realized that his pacing back and forth was actually a silent plea for help. He thinks that if just one of those people who passed him on the bridge that day had asked if something was wrong, he wouldn’t have jumped. It moved me to realize one small act or word from even a stranger could have changed his life’s story.

How many lives could we save if we all knew the risk factors and warning signs of suicidal behavior?

Risk factors don’t cause or predict suicidal behavior, but people suffering from them may be more likely to consider or attempt suicide. The following is a short list of some of the risk factors associated with the possibility of suicidal behavior:

RISK FACTORS FOR SUICIDE (courtesy of suicidepreventionlifeline.org)

  •  Mental health issues
  •  Alcohol and other substance use and abuse
  •  History of trauma or abuse
  •  Major physical illnesses
  •  Previous suicide attempt(s) or family history of suicide
  •  Loss of relationship(s), job, or financial loss
  •  Lack of social support and sense of isolation or hopelessness
  •  Stigma associated with asking for help
  •  Lack of healthcare, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
  •  Local clusters of suicide or exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the 05media and Internet)

Knowing the warning signs may help you determine if you, a friend, or loved one is at risk for suicide. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the following warning signs, please call The Center for Mental Health Crisis Line at 970.252.6220 (locally) or Colorado Crisis Services at 1-800-493-TALK (8255) (statewide).

SUICIDE WARNING SIGNS (with thanks to suicidepreventionlifeline.org)

  • Expressing the desire to die or to kill themselves
  • Researching ways to kill themselves
  •  Talking about feeling hopeless, trapped, in pain, or having no reason to live
  •  Expressing concern about being a burden to others
  •  Behaving recklessly
  •  Increasing alcohol and substance use
  •  Sleeping too little or too much
  •  Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  •  Extreme mood swings

Randy experienced major behavioral changes before attempting suicide. He talked about wanting to die and feeling hopeless. He began drinking heavily, often blacking out; he also acted recklessly and took major risks. Looking back, he realizes his behavior was a cry for help.

And there is help.

The Center for Mental Health can help by phone, online, or in person.

By phone
If you are in crisis, please call our Crisis line at 970.252.6220 or text TALK to 38255 to connect with a crisis counselor.

Online
Using our confidential, free, and quick self-screening tool, you can assess your own mental health situation online.

In person
The Center for Mental Health has locations across the Western Slope — you can make an appointment or walk-in for help.

The Crisis Walk-in Center in Montrose provides urgent behavioral health to anyone in our region. If you think you or someone you know is in danger of hurting themselves, walk in 24-hours a day, 365 days a year for help. No insurance is needed. It will open on September 16, 2019.

Know the risk factors, know the warning signs, know where to go for help, and together we can all help prevent suicide.

Resources

*Name changed