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What is Mental or Behavioral Health?

"The next time you visit your doctor, glance around the waiting room. Of the 10 people reading the old magazines, seven are there to seek care for issues related to behavioral health. They might have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions. They might need to change behaviors to manage chronic diseases such as diabetes or cardiac conditions. They might have a drinking or drug use problem that is affecting their health and relationships. They might want to lose weight or to quit smoking." 1

Behavioral health is healthcare for our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. The focus is to help individuals realize their full potential, cope with the stresses of life and empower them to work productively and make meaningful contributions to their communities.


It’s just as important for an older person with symptoms of depression to seek treatment as it is for someone younger. The impact of depression on health in older adults can be severe: much research has reported that depression is associated with worse health in people with conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Depression can complicate the treatment of these conditions, including making it more difficult for someone to care for him- or herself and to seek treatment when needed. In older adults, depression may be disregarded as frailty, or it may be viewed as an inevitable result of life changes, chronic illness, and disability. Recognizing the signs and seeing a health practitioner is the first step to getting treatment, which can make a real difference in someone’s quality of life.

Warning Signs

  • Noticeable changes in mood, energy level, or appetite
  • Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Difficulty concentrating, feeling restless, or on edge
  • Increased worry or feeling stressed
  • Anger, irritability or aggressiveness
  • Ongoing headaches, digestive issues, or pain
  • A need for alcohol or drugs
  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions
  • Engaging in high-risk activities
  • Obsessive thinking or compulsive behavior
  • Thoughts or behaviors that interfere with work, family, or social life
  • Unusual thinking or behaviors that concern other people

section content provided by: National Institute of Mental Health


The adolescent years are not easy. In fact, they are the years that shape and begin molding who and what we will become. So what makes these years so uncertain, challenging and important? The experience! It's the experiences of everyday that teach us how to cope with constant change and monotonous routine, with love and heartbreak, and disappointment and satisfaction. While learning perseverance we learn our breaking points. We fall, we struggle and before we succeed we learn failure.

back-to-school_preview Just as the greatest athletes benefit from a great couch, so do our youth. Behavioral health professionals go by many titles: therapist, clinician, case manager, peer specialist, psychologist, etc... But at the end of the day, they are "great couches". Their purpose is to help you chase your dreams. A couch's goal is to help you improve your abilities. A behavioral health professional, couches us in coping techniques and life skills that don't always come naturally but can be learned and mastered with help. With a little help, even the worst of days can become a positive experience armed with the potential of shaping a bright future of our youth.

It is normal for children and youth to experience various types of emotional distress as they develop and mature. For example, it is common for children to experience anxiety about school, or youth to experience short periods of depression that are transient in nature. When symptoms persist, it may be time to seek professional assistance. While most youth are healthy, physically and emotionally, one in every four to five youth in the general population meet criteria for a lifetime mental disorder and as a result may face discrimination and negative attitudes.A As with physical health, mental health is not merely the absence of disease or a mental health disorder. It includes emotional well-being, psychological well-being, social well-beingB and involves being able to

  • navigate successfully the complexities of life,
  • develop fulfilling relationships,
  • adapt to change,
  • utilize appropriate coping mechanisms to achieve well-being without discrimination.
  • realize their potential,
  • have their needs met, and
  • develop skills that help them navigate the different environments they inhabit.C

The presence or absence of various combinations of  protective and risk factors contribute to the mental health of youth and efforts can be undertaken to  promote positive mental health and  prevent or minimize mental health problems. Youth with mental health disorders may face challenges in their homes, school, community, and interpersonal relationships. Despite these challenges, for most youth, mental health distress is episodic, not permanent, and most can successfully navigate the challenges that come from experiencing a mental health disorder with treatment, peer and professional supports and services, and a strong family and social support network.5

  • A Merikangas, He, Burstein, et al., 2010
  • B Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2011; CDC, Health-Related Quality of Life, 2011
  • C U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999; National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2004

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As a parent or caregiver, you want the best for your children or other dependents. You may be concerned or have questions about certain behaviors they exhibit and how to ensure they get help.

What to Look For

It is important to be aware of warning signs that your child may be struggling. You can play a critical role in knowing when your child may need help.

Consult with a school counselor, school nurse, mental health provider, or another health care professional if your child shows one or more of the following behaviors:

  • Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks
  • Seriously trying to harm or kill himself or herself, or making plans to do so
  • Experiencing sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing
  • Getting in many fights or wanting to hurt others
  • Showing severe out-of-control behavior that can hurt oneself or others
  • Not eating, throwing up, or using laxatives to make himself or herself lose weight
  • Having intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities
  • Experiencing extreme difficulty controlling behavior, putting himself or herself in physical danger or causing problems in school
  • Using drugs or alcohol repeatedly
  • Having severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  • Showing drastic changes in behavior or personality

Difficult Experiences

Because children often can't understand difficult situations on their own, you should pay particular attention if they experience:

  • Loss of a loved one
  • Divorce or separation of their parents
  • Any major transition—new home, new school, etc.
  • Traumatic life experiences, like living through a natural disaster
  • Teasing or bullying
  • Difficulties in school or with classmates

What to Do

If you are concerned your child's behaviors, it is important to get appropriate care. You should:

  • Talk to your child's doctor, school nurse, or another health care provider and seek further information about the behaviors or symptoms that worry you
  • Ask your child's primary care physician if your child needs further evaluation by a specialist with experience in child behavioral problems
  • Ask if your child's specialist is experienced in treating the problems you are observing

How to Talk About Mental Health

Do you need help starting a conversation with your child about mental health? Try leading with these questions. Make sure you actively listen to your child's response.

  • Can you tell me more about what is happening? How you are feeling?
  • Have you had feelings like this in the past?
  • Sometimes you need to talk to an adult about your feelings. I'm here to listen. How can I help you feel better?
  • Do you feel like you want to talk to someone else about your problem?
  • I'm worried about your safety. Can you tell me if you have thoughts about harming yourself or others?

When talking about mental health problems with your child you should:

  • Communicate in a straightforward manner
  • Speak at a level that is appropriate to a child or adolescent's age and development level (preschool children need fewer details than teenagers)
  • Discuss the topic when your child feels safe and comfortable
  • Watch for reactions during the discussion and slow down or back up if your child becomes confused or looks upset
  • Listen openly and let your child tell you about his or her feelings and worries

Learn More About Supporting Your Children

There are many resources for parents and caregivers who want to know more about children's mental health. Learn more about:

section content provided by: MentalHealth.gov

Supporting a Friend or Family Member4

Anyone can experience mental health problems. Friends and family can make all the difference in a person's recovery process. You can help your friend or family member by recognizing the signs of mental health problems and connecting them to professional  help.

Talking to friends and family about mental health problems can be an opportunity to provide information, support, and guidance. Learning about mental health issues can lead to:

  • Improved recognition of early signs of mental health problems
  • Earlier treatment
  • Greater understanding and compassion

If a friend or family member is showing signs of a mental health problem or reaching out to you for help, offer support by:

  • Finding out if the person is getting the care that he or she needs and wants—if not, connect him or her to help
  • Expressing your concern and support
  • Reminding your friend or family member that help is available and that mental health problems can be treated
  • Asking questions, listening to ideas, and being responsive when the topic of mental health problems come up
  • Reassuring your friend or family member that you care about him or her
  • Offering to help your friend or family member with everyday tasks
  • Including your friend or family member in your plans—continue to invite him or her without being overbearing, even if your friend or family member resists your invitations
  • Educating other people so they understand the facts about mental health problems and do not discriminate
  • Treating people with mental health problems with respect, compassion, and empathy

How to Talk About Mental Health

Do you need help starting a conversation about mental health? Try leading with these questions and make sure to actively listen to your friend or family member's response.

  • I've been worried about you. Can we talk about what you are experiencing? If not, who are you comfortable talking to?
  • What can I do to help you to talk about issues with your parents or someone else who is responsible and cares about you?
  • What else can I help you with?
  • I am someone who cares and wants to listen. What do you want me to know about how you are feeling?
  • Who or what has helped you deal with similar issues in the past?
  • Sometimes talking to someone who has dealt with a similar experience helps. Do you know of others who have experienced these types of problems who you can talk with?
  • It seems like you are going through a difficult time. How can I help you to find help?
  • How can I help you find more information about mental health problems?
  • I'm concerned about your safety. Have you thought about harming yourself or others?

When talking about mental health problems:

  • Know how to  connect people to help
  • Communicate in a straightforward manner
  • Speak at a level appropriate to a person's age and development level (preschool children need fewer details as compared to teenagers)
  • Discuss the topic when and where the person feels safe and comfortable
  • Watch for reactions during the discussion and slow down or back up if the person becomes confused or looks upset

Sometimes it is helpful to make a comparison to a physical illness. For example, many people get sick with a cold or the flu, but only a few get really sick with something serious like pneumonia. People who have a cold are usually able to do their normal activities. However, if they get pneumonia, they will have to take medicine and may have to go to the hospital.

Similarly, feelings of sadness, anxiety, worry, irritability, or sleep problems are common for most people. However, when these feelings get very intense, last for a long period of time, and begin to interfere with school, work, and relationships, it may be a sign of a mental health problem. And just like people need to take medicine and get professional help for physical conditions, someone with a mental health problem may need to take medicine and/or participate in therapy in order to get better.

Get Help for Your Friend or Family Member

Seek immediate assistance if you think your friend or family member is in danger of harming themselves. You can call the SLVHBG Crisis Hotline 24/7: 719.589.3671

section content provided by: MentalHealth.gov

  1. www.mehaf.org/news-room/blog/behavioral-health/
  2. www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/older-adults-and-mental-health/index.shtml
  3. www.mentalhealth.gov/talk/parents-caregivers
  4. www.mentalhealth.gov/talk/friends-family-members
  5. youth.gov/youth-topics/youth-mental-health

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Counties Support SLV Behavioral Health Group

Gov. John Hickenlooper is contemplating using an out-of-state service to replace Colorado crisis service organizations. The San Luis Valley County Commissioners Association and San Luis Valley Behavioral Health Group don't want that to happen so that's why the SLVCCA signed a letter to the governor in support of local crisis centers.

"Crisis should stay local and it should be contracted with local entities," said SLV Behavioral Health Chief Executive Officer Fernando Martinez. "Having a request for proposals go out nationally, subjecting us possibly to an outside vendor is not good state business."

According to the letter, SLVBHG hospitalizes and transports 14 people a month and completes an average of 3,000 emergency responses annually. Martinez said that their services help ease the burden of local law enforcement and the organizations have also helped raise funds.

"Here in the San Luis Valley, these extra dollars have provided access to a walk-in crisis center for our residents so that anyone who is having a behavioral health crisis can access services without going to the local emergency room or calling the police," states the letter. "Because we live in an area where our closest inpatient psychiatric hospital is at least two hours away, a local walk-in crisis center has been invaluable."

Unless Hickenlooper changes his mind, the decision to rebid the crisis contract will take place in July.

"Mental health investments across the state of Colorado are in jeopardy," Martinez said.