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'It's a huge contributor to health issues': Mental health professionals on today's challenges

What you should know about mental health from mental health professionals talk about

KUSA — This week, mental health professionals from all over the world are getting together for a conference in Denver.

Coming Together for Action is at the Anschutz Medical Campus. They’re covering everything from mental health, to social justice, to how to have overall healthier communities.

We asked Jenn Leiferman, a doctor and an associate professor and director of the Rocky Mountain Prevention Research Center, and Ashley Brooks-Russell, a doctor and project director of the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, about their mental health concerns:

Q: What is the biggest challenge facing the mental health field?

Jenn: In Colorado, it’s the shortage of mental health specialists. In addition to that, we have limitations to access to care. It’s very hard sometimes for populations, especially for minority populations with language barriers, to get the care they need.

Last would be stigma. Oftentimes people don’t feel comfortable reaching out for help.

Ashley: The recognition that it’s a huge contributor to a lot of health problems. Someone’s social and emotional wellbeing affects every aspect of their life. Their physical health, their ability to have social relationships, be a good parent and a good friend.

Q: What’s happening in the behavioral health field to address these issues?

Jenn: At the state level, we have the State Innovation Model Program that’s really working at enhancing integrative care. That is, improving the interactions between primary care and behavioral health specialists to deliver overall care.

Here at the Colorado School of Public Health, we’re doing programs really aimed at prevention. We are looking at individual-based programing as well as community. We have programs such as community gardens where we aim to enhance mental health among community members. We’re working in schools to help students feel more connected to their schools. We know that the more connected people feel, the stronger and better mental health they will have.

Ashley: Here at the school of Public Health we’ve launched a new MPH (Master in Public Health) program which is a sign that we recognize the importance of mental health as a critical aspect of overall health and public health.

Q: What can I do?

Jenn: Start talking about it. Make others feel that it’s okay, that they’re there for them. To begin to develop a culture of acceptance and helping one another.

Ashley: Being open to talking about mental health. This isn’t a taboo topic, this is something we all face. We’ve all been stressed, we’ve all felt down and needed help coping. I think it’s being not afraid to ask someone how they’re doing and listen to them and then be accepting when people tell you they need help.

Q: Final thoughts?

Jenn: When we think about promoting mental health, we think about promoting resilience and overall well-being.

Ashley: I do worry about our young people today because they’re faced with new challenges the way social media is a part of their life. Their social challenges I think are different than prior generations, so I think we still have our work cut out for us in raising healthy kids.

Below is a list of mental health resources:


24/7 Confidential and immediate help available

Phone number: 1.844.493.8255

Text “TALK” to 38255



Alcoholics Anonymous: https://www.aa.org/

Alcoholics Anonymous Colorado: https://coloradoaa.org/

UCHealth Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehabilitation (CeDAR): https://bit.ly/2BXdaby AND https://www.cedarcolorado.org/

Colorado Crisis Services: http://bit.ly/2CMe8om


The Eating Disorder Foundation: https://eatingdisorderfoundation.org/

The Gaudiani Clinic: http://www.gaudianiclinic.com/

UC Health Nutrition Services: https://www.uchealth.org/services/nutrition-services/

National Institutes of Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml

Zoe’s Blog: http://zoevlastos.com/


UCHealth Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehabilitation (CeDAR): https://www.cedarcolorado.org/

Colorado Crisis Services: http://bit.ly/2CMe8om


Problem Gambling Treatment and Resource Center (Morgridge College of Education – DU): http://bit.ly/2kTshsm

University of Denver Counseling and Educational Services Clinic: http://bit.ly/28KwMSJ

Colorado Gamblers Anonymous: http://www.coloradoga.org/

Hotline: 1-855-222-CALLGA (1-855-222-5524)

Problem Gambling Coalition of Colorado: http://bit.ly/2ktAqVd

Hotline 1-800-522-4700

Aurora Mental Health Choice Counseling and Recovery (free services): Tammy Pope Tammy_pope@comcast.net (cell) 402-419-8929