Jefferson County, Colo. — When we talk about our health, we often first consider the health of our bodies, but the health of our minds is just as important. Our mental health affects our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Unfortunately, in Jefferson County, more than one third of adults reported having had poor mental health days in the past month.i
That’s why this May, for Mental Health Month, Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) is encouraging every person to talk about their thoughts, emotions and mental well-being, and to seek care when it is needed. Poor mental health can be a sign of more significant health problems such as anxiety or depression that require treatment with a health care provider.
JCPH offers several programs that help people of all ages better understand their mental health and how to foster better conversations around what can sometimes be a difficult subject.
JCPH is a partner in Let’s Talk Colorado, a campaign to combat stigma and encourage all people to talk about their mental health and support themselves and people they know when help is needed. This May, the campaign is focusing on a group that is often are absent from the dialogue, though its members often face unique mental health challenges – men.
“Let’s Talk is all about encouraging all of us, regardless of societal preconceptions, to embrace our mental health needs, while recognizing that we, as a county and a state, have room to make significant progress on mental health outcomes,” said Kelly Kast, State Innovation Model Epidemiologist at JCPH. “Taking steps to understand mental health and mental health conditions is a big part of making our communities healthier.”
LAUNCH Together is an early childhood initiative that supports Colorado communities in expanding evidence-based prevention and health promotion practices and building coordinated systems of care for children, prenatal through age 8, and their families. The focus of the work is on social-emotional health and development. Partners, including JCPH, work to increase community capacity and opportunities for families to address early childhood mental health. LAUNCH Together helps parents, caregivers and providers who work with young children to promote healthy social-emotional development so that our community’s kids get off to the best start possible.
“We all know that our physical health begins the moment we’re born, but many of us don’t consider that our mental health does, too.” said Jennifer Anton, Special Projects Administrator at JCPH. “Strong mental health provides a stable foundation that supports all other aspects of healthy development. This foundation is built in the first months of life, when young children need constant support and connection with the people who care most about them.”
Healthy Start at Home
Healthy Start at Home is a Jefferson County program provided at no-cost for all pregnant women that aims to improve the health of infants and mothers alike. The program offers visits in the home from a nurse throughout a woman’s pregnancy and through the first two months postpartum, with the option to extend until the baby’s first birthday. During the visits, nurses not only act as a support system for moms and moms-to-be, but they screen for pregnancy-related depression and anxiety and similar conditions, and if necessary, make referrals to the appropriate services.
In Jefferson County, 60 percent of new mothers reported experiencing at least some level of depression.i Melissa Palay, Associate Director of Family Services at JCPH, championed expanding this program in 2019 to be able to serve more women and for longer periods of time after seeing just how many new moms needed the support.
“We know that within the first year of having a baby is when mothers are most likely to die from mental health related causes, including suicide and overdose,” Palay said. “We wanted to make sure we were offering families that support through that first year and helping them get to healthier places together.”
Communities That Care
Over 30 percent of Jefferson County high school students reported feeling so sad or hopeless for at least two weeks that they stopped doing regular activities.i
Jefferson County Communities That Care (CTC) is a coalition-driven approach to preventing youth problems before they ever start by addressing underlying risk and protective factors experienced by youth in our community. The Jefferson County CTC coalition, which is made up of youth, volunteers and representatives from many community organizations, is working to prevent substance use, sexual and dating violence, and anxiety and depression through education, skill-building, increasing support and policy change.
To learn more about how to support youth in your community and upcoming Communities That Care events and programs, please visit the CTC website.
In addition to the programs at JCPH, several important resources exist in Jefferson County and Colorado for those looking to start the conversation or seek care.
Jefferson Center is a nonprofit, community-focused mental health care and substance use services provider with locations around Jefferson County. Colorado Crisis Services offers mental health, substance use and emotional support for those seeking help for themselves or someone they know via walk-in clinics, online crisis chat, and a 24/7 call line and text services. The Colorado Crisis Services hotline is 1-844-493-8255, or you can text “TALK” to 38255.
About Jefferson County Public Health
Public health is what we as a society do collectively to prevent illness and premature death and promote health in our neighborhoods and communities. Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) is a nationally accredited health department committed to promoting and protecting health across the lifespan through prevention, education and partnerships for all people. To learn more about JCPH, visit https://www.jeffco.us/public-health. You can also follow JCPH on Twitter @JeffcoPH, Instagram @JeffcoPH and Facebook @jeffcopublichealth.