Mental Health

Mental Health in General

Mental health is a topic that can be often overlooked and stigmatized, however, as shown in the data below, about one in five people experience mental health issues monthly and yearly. Those experiencing these issues and conditions varies by demographics and geography. Poor mental health can contribute to, or be associated with, a variety of other health conditions and health factors, some of which include: alcohol and drug use, cigarette use, disabilities, unemployment and likelihood of self-harm. 

Percent of adults experiencing frequent mental distress (14 or more mentally unhealthy day in the past 30) (2014-2017)

Source: CDPHE BRFSS Small Area Estimates (2014-2017)

In Jefferson County, 64 percent of adults did not have any poor mental health days in the past month. Among the 36 percent of those who had one or more poor mental health days in the past month, the distribution across the population was not equal. Geographic and demographic inequities exist among those experiencing poor mental health. In Colorado (2016), 10.6 percent of adults experienced 14 or more days where their mental health was poor. Females, those with less education, those below the 250 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), those who are younger or those who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or another sexuality were more likely to experience 14 or more days of poor mental health.

Source: CO BRFSS

Percent of high school students whose mental health was not good on one or more days, past 30 days, by gender, Colorado (2015)

Serious Mental Illness

In Colorado, about 25 percent of those 18-to-25 years and 19 percent of those 26 years and older have experienced mental illness in the past year. Comparatively, 6.6 percent of those 18-to-25 years and 5.5 percent of those 26 years and older experienced a serious mental illness in the past year in Colorado. The percent of adults experiencing any mental illness or serious mental illness has increased over the past four years in Colorado, and the percent of adults experiencing mental illness and serious mental illness in Colorado is higher than the United States.

Depression/Hopelessness

The percent of adults who have been diagnosed with depression in Jefferson County is similar to the percent of adults in Colorado and the United States. However, similar to those experiencing more days of poor mental health, in Colorado, females, those with less education, those who are below the 250 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), those who are younger and those who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or another sexuality, are more likely to have been diagnosed with depression.

Percent of adults ever diagnosed with depression (2014-2017)

Source: CDPHE BRFSS Small Area Estimates (2014-2017)

Source: CO BRFSS

Among Colorado high school students, almost 30 percent felt so sad or hopeless for two or more weeks that they stopped doing some of their regular activities in the past year. In addition, 17 percent of high school students seriously considered suicide, 14 percent made a plan to attempt suicide, 8 percent attempted suicide one or more times and three percent attempted suicide and had to be treated for an injury. Female students were more likely then males to be sad or hopeless, or to consider, plan or attempt suicide. The percent of high school students experiencing these feelings or contemplating/attempting suicide increased from 2013 to 2015.

Source: HKCS

*Felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row that they stopped doing some usual activities
** Attempt resulted in injury for which medical treatment was sought

Female students and those that identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or were unsure of their sexuality were more likely to feel so sad or hopeless for two or more weeks that they stopped doing some of their regular activities in the past year.

Source: HKCS

In Jefferson County, 60 percent of new mothers experienced at least some level of depression and 17 percent were moderately to very depressed. While 4.6 percent of new mothers were very depressed, only 2.2 percent of new mothers received help for their depression.

Anxiety

Behind depression, anxiety disorders are the next most frequently diagnosed mental health condition. The percent of adults diagnosed with anxiety in Jefferson County is similar to Colorado and has increased over the past five years. The distribution of those diagnosed with anxiety differs slightly from that of depression. Females, those who were below the 250 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), those who are younger, or those who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or other sexuality are also more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety. However, those whose highest level of education is high school graduate or some college are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety than those with less than a high school education or college graduates. In addition, black non-Hispanics, white non-Hispanics and other races non-Hispanics are all more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety than Hispanics.

Source: CO BRFSS

Youth Hopelessness & Anxiety

Communities That Care Focus Group Findings

Why youth experience feelings of hopelessness and anxiety:

During the Communities That Care focus groups, Jefferson County youth were asked why they and their peers experience feelings of hopelessness and anxiety. They identified four main reasons why these feeling exist:

1. Family issues including adults with impaired mental health, abuse, and difficult family dynamics.

"I know a kid whose dad committed suicide. And so, this whole family aspect of your life, it plays a large role in your emotional stability. And so, he actually ended up committing suicide himself too, and it was, he did it in the same way that his dad committed suicide. And so that just left like such a big hole in his heart that, that family plays such a big role."

2. Abuse and bullying by adults and peers.

"I have a friend who was bullied harshly. It’s very extreme. These kids, they like take away her food and tell her she’s fat and doesn’t deserve to eat. And so she hurts herself, she’s really depressed, she’s contemplating suicide, and I think her family’s not stable."

3. Diagnosed mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression.

"I used to hurt myself. Mainly because of chronic depression and anxiety. It would go in a cycle: I would get really anxious, and then I’d get very sad that I was anxious, then I’d get mad at myself, and I would get anxious because I was really sad. And it was a vicious cycle that didn’t stop until I went on medication."

4. A mixture of causes.

"My sister and I grew up good home, [but] we were both depressed. If it’s internal, it’s more a sense of drifting, and a sense of not belonging, even though you have a good life. It was probably a genetic or mental thing, like a chemical imbalance, but there are definitely outside factors. I have friends who have gone through a lot and multiple negative events [and] factors. 90% has to do with family, parents dying or up and leaving... if it is internal, medication [or] therapy helps. If [it’s an] external factor, it’s more difficult to work though. For a chemical imbalance, you balance the chemicals."

What youth need to relieve feelings of hopelessness and anxiety

In addition to identifying why youth experience feelings of hopelessness and anxiety, the youth at the focus groups also discussed how to relieve these feelings. They identified three avenues through which these feelings can be alleviated:

1. Teenagers need to be nicer to one another. Many youth focus groups participants stated that youth are not always kind to their peers. The youth identified that included a cultural shift of youth simply being nicer to one another as well as having tools to help each other would help to relieve some of the feelings of hopelessness and anxiety that they experience.

"Kids are mean. [A] kid might stand out for not having nice clothes, or doing things differently. Just say hi and smile. [It] can change [the] mind state they’re in."

2. Need outlets and coping skills. Many of the youth identified that having outlets, coping skills, and a sense of purpose are important to be able to handle feelings hopelessness and anxiety in a healthy way.

"The main thing is to find what you enjoy most. People who have suicidal thoughts and depressing feelings don’t have anything they enjoy, really. To get these outlets to channel your emotions, [you] need to find something that brings you joy, whether it is sports, art, or another person."

"[They] should try to teach [the] younger generation how to deal with emotions in a more healthy way instead of closing them up."

"If not a friend, set [a] routine of working out every other day to have a purpose, something to look forward to. [Like] self-improvement or something."

3. Need trusted adults. The youth discussed that having adults to turn to when they needed to talk would help to relieve feelings of hopelessness and anxiety. Adults such as parents, teachers, and guidance counselors were identified as people that youth would like to be able to talk to.

"I think teachers should have training. I have one teacher who took a training on own so he could help students. He is amazing and helpful. He is the one person I can trust. I have had bad experiences with counselors, [so I] don’t go them anymore. When I got into his class, I knew right away I can trust him, and I never felt that with any teacher before."

Get Involved!

The Jefferson County Communities That Care (CTC) coalition is using a structured, evidence-based community change process to increase protective factors and decrease risk factors related to youth hopelessness and anxiety, with a focus on suicide risk, improved mental health and improved prevalence of trusted adults. 

Risk factors for youth hopelessness and anxiety include: 

• Transitions and mobility
• Academic failure beginning in late elementary school
• Family management problems

Protective Factors include: 

• Opportunities for prosocial involvement
• Recognition for prosocial involvement
• School rewards for prosocial involvement
• Family opportunities for prosocial involvement

Many of these risk & protective factors also known to influence prevalence of violence and substance misuse among youth. More information regarding youth substance misuse and risk & protective factors can be found in the Jefferson County CTC community assessment (link available soon).

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Data Sources

Colorado BRFSS: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey: http://www.chd.dphe.state.co.us/cohid/

CDPHE BRFSS: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, Small Area Estimates: http://www.cohealthmaps.dphe.state.co.us/cdphe_community_level_estimates/

HKCS: Healthy Kids Colorado Survey: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/hkcs

SAMHSA NSDUH: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association - National Survey on Drug Use and Health: https://www.samhsa.gov/data/data-we-collect/nsduh-national-survey-drug-use-and-health

CDC BRFSS: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey: https://www.cdc.gov/brfss/data_tools.htm

PRAMS via CDPHE: Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System via Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment:  http://www.chd.dphe.state.co.us/cohid/Default.aspx

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Published on July 17, 2018

Updated April 23, 2019