Ark Valley Voice is one of nearly 100 news organizations across the state that make up the nonprofit Colorado News Collaborative (COLab). Starting Sunday, December 6, we launched a multi-part statewide series on growing mental health challenges amid the confluence of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic crisis, civil rights unrest, climate change, and political upheaval. You can find our stories, and the conversations that provoke the tough questions at www.arkvalleyvoice.com
The series, called “On Edge,” seeks to normalize conversations about mental health, with a special focus on communities with a particularly high stigma around these issues. Often, these are rural areas such as the area of Central Colorado where we live and work.
We aim especially for intimate, candid interviews with people in professions and communities that don’t necessarily cultivate cultures in which mental health is discussed. Our sources will be modeling those conversations for readers in hope of encouraging more communication about topics with which, data show, all too many Coloradans are uncomfortable.
Vincent Atchity, president of Mental Health Colorado, sees a need statewide for this personalized approach to mental health coverage. “I’ve seen research and medical-based reporting. But I’ve not seen any reporting that put faces and lived experiences behind what’s popping up with this crisis,” he says.
As we proceed, readers should know that Ark Valley Voice and COLab will be interviewing local behavioral health specialists, policy advocates, and the public about mental health needs in our communities, and we plan to host video conversations about the challenges we face.
Journalists all across the state also plan to write first-person columns or reported essays about their own states of mind as a way to not only introduce involvement in the series but also encourage and solicit community response and help break through stigma and discomfort talking about mental health issues.
Especially in a time of isolation and crisis, when we begin to feel numb from the grief and loneliness, we believe these are the most important conversations we should be encouraging, and also the form of engagement that is most helpful to the public.
Whatever you’re going through, crisis counselors and professionally trained peer specialists are available to help. Call Colorado Crisis Service’s hotline at 1-844-493-TALK(8255). There is no wrong reason to reach out.