There’s a new mental health crisis line available to Coloradans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office announced the crisis line Tuesday in partnership with the Colorado Department of Human Services, a day after the death of actor Robin Williams to an apparent suicide in California.
“We do not want to lose one more person to the tragedy of suicide, gun violence, substance abuse or mental illness,” Hickenlooper said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. “Colorado made an unwavering commitment to redesign and strengthen our mental health service support system and this is a critical step. The statewide hotline increases access to care for anyone in need and will help safeguard our residents, our families and our communities.”
Hickenlooper spokeswoman Kathy Green said the line had been operating in a soft launch mode and the governor’s office planned to formally announce it later this week.
“We also realized that calls to mental health lines typically spike after a public and high profile suicide,” she said. “In the best interest of Coloradans, we moved our announcement up a few days.”
Under Hickenlooper’s initiative “Strengthening Colorado’s Mental Health System: A Plan to Safeguard All Coloradans,” there are plans for an array of improvements to mental health services in the state, including real-time data transfers for mental health information during firearm background checks, streamlining bureaucratic processes for involuntary mental health holds and other enhancements to community-based mental health services.
The budget for expanding and enhancing the state’s crisis response system, under which the 24-hour crisis hotline falls, is $10.2 million.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last year that more Americans now die from suicide each year than motor-vehicle accidents. And the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that at least 90 percent of all people who die by suicide were suffering from mental illness — typically depression — at the time of their death.
Law enforcement, mental-health professionals and suicide coalitions in the Colorado mountains report anecdotally that suicide rates in the mountains are higher per capita than the state average.
Mental-health professionals have varying theories as to why mountain towns struggle with suicide, but they all agree on one important point: The stigma surrounding it silences those in danger from seeking help. It also silences those who are worried about their loved ones.
A conversation focused on erasing that stigma began in Aspen earlier this year when the community learned of four suicides in a two-week period.
An epidemic of working-age men committing suicide has also garnered the attention of the state Office of Suicide Prevention, which launched its Man Therapy campaign in July 2012. The website, www.mantherapy.org, is designed to reach working-age men through humor. The site recommends “manly tips” to work through depression. And even the self-assessment questions are funny.