COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Recent data shows a dramatic rise in Coloradans seeking mental health resources amid the pandemic. Now, advocates and state leaders are making it their mission to increase awareness for 'Mental Health Month' in May.
Leaders from across Colorado announced May as 'Mental Health Month,' on Monday, advocating for healing through community efforts.
"For many, the crises that we've experienced together this past year have driven home the truth that our physical health and our mental health are not separate," Mental Health Colorado President & CEO, Vincent Atchity said, "Health is all of us. Mental health and trauma and hard times don't have a clean start and finish. Not in time. Not among people. We're all experiencing this together in different phases."
According to the Colorado Department of Human Services, more than 1 million Coloradans, or 20% of the state's population, are currently living with a diagnosed mental health condition.
"Calls and texts to Colorado crisis services or the state behavioral health crisis line have steadily climbed in the last year, overall up about 32% during the pandemic," Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Human Services, Michelle Barnes said.
Active duty soldier and reigning Miss Fort Carson, Maura Spence Carroll, has struggled with ADHD, anxiety, and depression her whole life.
"I grew up thinking that I was just really disorganized and that I had a hard time in school and that, you know, sometimes people just get sad," Spence Carroll said.
She said it wasn't until she turned 20 and joined the military that she knew she needed to seek help.
"Growing up, we didn’t have the kind of money for that kind of thing. You know sometimes, I was able to go to counseling, but it wasn’t until my sister passed away that we made it a little more of a priority."
Lack of access to affordable mental health services is a growing issue in Colorado, according to experts. Mental Health Colorado President and CEO Vincent Atchity said it's one reason why the organization is working with state lawmakers this legislative session to create better resources, like free mental health services for kids returning to the classroom.
"If we’re going to mobilize our efforts and resources to do something sensible for the long-term health of the population, here’s your cohort. Here’s your target population," Atchity said, "Be there for these kids and that will help us to heal and get us on a much better path for recovery."
Most importantly, advocates like Spence Carroll said it's crucial for people to know they're not alone.
"I remember being in that exact position. I’ve had this my entire life, I’ve always had ADHD. So, to any kids out there who might be scared or not know who to talk to, you can always talk to a good teacher, your favorite teacher. I promise they’re going to be willing to listen."