DENVER — Mental Health Colorado launched has launched an initiative to help people combat feelings of loneliness, isolation and stress that they may be experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new program is called "In This Together" and is a way for people to connect with other people and simply chat. People can sign up on Mental Health Colorado's website and they will receive a call back for some old-fashioned conversation.
“What we need is social closeness, solidarity, and support," said Mental Health Colorado President and CEO Vincent Atchity, "'In This Together' is a way to create a little bit of social contact, all over the state, with a friendly phone call.”
This program is available to anyone -- older adults who live alone, people recovering from surgery, younger people living in more remote parts of the state, or maybe new parents trying to work on their new normal and new routines.
Once you sign up online, Mental Health Colorado will respond within two days to schedule a 30-minute call with either one of their staff members or one of 80 volunteers with Brain Wave, a state-wide grassroots advocacy group that works with Mental Health Colorado.
"One of our staff members talked to a woman in her 70s living alone," said Aubree Hughes, with Mental Health Colorado. "She's typically very active, goes to the [recreatoin center] and the library regularly. The closures are making her feel isolated and lonely. She was incredibly kind on the phone and she just wanted someone to talk to."
Hughes took a call from someone recovering from surgery, looking to have a friendly conversation. Afterward, Hughes said the woman decided to set up her own informal support network among her friends.
The advocacy group said the course of the pandemic has changed the conversations around mental health, making it more routine to ask co-workers and neighbors about their mental health and being more open about feeling lonely and anxious.
“People don’t have to go through this, or any, hard time alone,” said Atchity. “We need to be increasingly understanding and compassionate with ourselves and others when it comes to our mental health. Creating healthier minds is a cultural shift and an ongoing work in progress. And everybody can do it.”
Mental Health Colorado said the impacts of loneliness and isolation on a person's health can be as detrimental as smoking or obesity. The American Psychological Association said loneliness and isolation can impact depression, sleep quality, cardiovascular health and immunity.
The longer it goes on, the more the risk goes up.
"In This Together" is not meant for emergencies or clinical help. If that is the case help is available 24/7 with the Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255. People can also call 911 or go to an emergency room during a mental health crisis and reach out to their providers.
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