Health and well-being: We can do better with mental health

According to the latest report from Mental Health AmericaColorado is the lowest-ranked state in the nation for adult mental health.

It’s in a country where one in five Americans has a diagnosable mental health condition. Additionally, a study from the Colorado Rural Health Center found that suicide rates are 62% higher in rural Colorado than in urban areas. This is a very real and raw issue in our community, and we need to do better. We’ve lost too many friends, too many of us are struggling, and it’s time for those statistics to change.

We write this column from a citizen’s perspective – we are not licensed mental health counsellors. But that’s the point: talking about mental health needs to become a normal part of our daily conversations.

Yes, we believe everyone needs to see a professional therapist, but we also believe that as friends, colleagues, partners, and even strangers, we can be more present in our conversations with others. And the more regularly we talk about mental health, the faster we can break the stigma around it.

There are so many things and factors that affect mental health, and we certainly can’t solve all the problems of those who struggle. But we can check in more often, ask them how they’re doing (and listen to the response), and yes, we can hug people again.

Please hug your friends. Research has shown that human contact calms our nervous system, lowers blood pressure and alleviates depression. Conversely, studies have also shown that when people lack human contact, they experience decreased immune function, higher cortisol levels, and increased anxiety.

So what does this look like in our daily life? Here are five ways we can make a difference as individuals:

  1. Make a list of people you think might be struggling and keep it in your diary. Call or text someone on this list once a week.
  1. The next time someone seems stressed or a little confused, take five minutes with them to check in or ask how you can help.
  1. Stick to your word and follow your plans. You never know why someone asked you to meet and be open to doing things for others, rather than only if it’s right for you.
  1. Pay attention. Don’t take people’s comments about their mental health or outlook on life lightly. Suggest therapy or contact family and friends if you are concerned.
  1. Listen. Really listen. Practice listening without formulating your next comment or preparing your advice. Try to really hear what they are saying and pause before giving your opinion.

And if you’re having trouble, there are lots of ways to feel better or get help. Here are five things we can do to improve our mental health:

  1. Call your closest friend. Know that you are not overwhelming them; it makes people feel good to be trusted and to help. Let them know how you are doing.
  1. Talk to a professional. There are so many options available now, including online therapy, texting, and in-person therapy. Many places offer income-based or sliding-scale services so finances aren’t a limitation.
  1. Consider finding a coach. There are coaches for recovery, life, business, wellness, nutrition and more. A life coach can help you clarify your goals and overcome obstacles, and a recovery coach is a great way to help you stay sober on your recovery journey.
  1. Move your body. Movement and exercise release dopamine and serotonin and literally make us happier. Take a walk along the river, ride a bike, run with the dog, do burpees or join a yoga class. “I regret this training,” no one ever said.
  1. Of course, for serious situations, get help immediately. There is now a national mental health hotline. All you have to do is dial 988 and someone will be there for you. Other local resources include REPS ( or sobriety support groups like SoBoat Steamboat (find us on Facebook or Instagram).

It is important to recognize that you can be both the helper and the person in need, and sometimes this happens simultaneously. But often when we help others, we also help ourselves. Studies have shown that when we are generous with our time or resources, it activates parts of our brain for pleasure and reward, making us happier. Any level of helping others improves our support system, reduces feelings of isolation, and increases our self-esteem.

In short, we urge our community to do more. If you’re tired or struggling, the smallest acts of kindness can make a big difference (it takes about five seconds to send a “thinking of you” text). Our friends need us, our community needs us. Above all, we must help others to help ourselves. So please offer a listening ear, a heartfelt hug, or share a meal, and above all, be kind. We can do better, starting today.

sisters Sarah Coleman and Keller Northcut were born and raised in Steamboat with a passion for helping others. Coleman is a Wellness and Recovery Coach and Personal Trainer. She can be contacted at [email protected]. Northcut is a freelance writer. His work can be found at

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