Series: Time to talk about mental illness
Don’t we all know someone who is struggling with some form of mental illness or mental health challenge? Colorado Community Media has launched a series of articles and forums, entitled “Time to Talk,” on the state of mental health, specifically in Douglas County, but applying to all of us, to discuss the need to bring the issue of mental illness into everyday conversation. Need help, …
Part Five
Latest drug news
Douglas County school board to keep current policy on medical marijuana in place

Since Benjamin Wann started taking medical marijuana nearly three years ago, he hasn't had a seizure. Wann, a junior at Mountain Vista, was diagnosed with epilepsy at 3 years old. In 2014, Sarah …

E-cigarette makers face warning from FDA chief

U.S. health officials are sounding the alarm about rising teenage use of e-cigarettes, calling the problem an “epidemic” and ordering manufacturers to reverse the trend or risk having their …

Time to Talk: Addiction, mental health ‘inherently linked’

Terry Schamberger took his last alcoholic drink on July 1, 2007, about 27 years after he drank his first beer at 13. Alcohol, he believes, was about to cost him his family. “I knew my kids were …
The Rhoades family — from left, Jacob, his father and mother, Jim and Kendra, and sister Cienna — lives in Parker. Jacob is working to overcome a dependency on marijuana and has been clean since December. The family is proud of how far he's come. "His whole attitude has changed," his mother said.

‘He really still takes one day at a time’

For Kendra Rhoades, the problem was not convincing her or her husband that their teenage son Jacob struggled with substance abuse. The problem was convincing Jacob, even after his marijuana use …
Chrysta Reese, right, and her daughter Ostyn are working to help Ostyn stay sober after battling a heroin addiction. Ostyn had her first child in May and entered rehab to gain custody of her daughter, her mother said.

‘They told me if I had a house and a car I could afford it’

When Chrysta Reese’s daughter revealed she was struggling with a heroin addiction, Reese immediately sought help. “The first time she called me and was really sick, I thought she was dying. I was …

Binge drinking is deadliest form of alcohol consumption

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared binge drinking the most costly and deadly form of alcohol consumption in the country. The CDC also classifies it as the nation’s most …

Coalition focuses on preventing substance abuse among county’s youth

The Douglas County Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition — which works to prevent substance use among young people — reports to the Douglas County Mental Health Initiative, a partnership of …

Stress, social status among reasons for teen substance use

The Douglas County Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition found in a community-needs assessment from the Tri-County Health Department that more than 26 percent of high school students in the …

Is marijuana addictive?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana use can lead to a marijuana dependency and, in extreme cases, addiction. About 30 percent of marijuana users are believed to have some …
Part Four
Community Forum

WATCH: Mental health and youth community forum April 26, 2018


Check out a Time to Talk community conversation about mental health and youth: Andrew Romanoff, CEO of Mental Health Colorado, talked about the importance of early intervention. Kristen Torres, a CSU sophomore and Douglas County graduate, and Kirstie June, a senior at Chaparral High School, shared their personal mental health struggles and how they've overcome them.

Hosted by Colorado Community Media on April 26 at Lone Tree Library in partnership with Douglas County Libraries and the Douglas County Mental Health Initiative.

Suicide warning signs

• Increased use of alcohol or drugs

• Withdrawing from activities

• Isolating from family and friends

• Sleeping too much or too little

• Giving away prized possessions

• Aggression

• Fatigue

• Displaying depression, anxiety, irritability, shame or anger

• Displaying relief or sudden improvement in mood

• Talking about feelings of hopelessness, being a burden to others or having no reason to live

Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Time to Talk: 'There is help and hope'

Lora Thomas vividly remembers the day: a snowy February afternoon in 2012. She was Douglas County’s coroner then and she was standing in the kitchen of a home in Parker, talking with a father who …
Standing in his Parker home, Johnnie Medina holds a photo of his daughter, Mikayla, who was 24 years old when she died by suicide nearly a year ago. “You don’t really move forward,” he said. “You just exist.”
time to talk

After tragedy, father works to ‘capture the light’

On his right wrist, Johnnie Medina wears a black hemp bracelet with a multi-colored stone wrapped in the middle. Around his neck hangs a Hawaiian fishhook, a symbol of love and good fortune. The …
Sources of Strength, an international suicide-prevention program, encourages students to focus on eight strengths in their lives. Each is represented as the slice of a colorful wheel, which hangs on the walls of many middle schools and high schools.
time to talk

Suicide-prevention program in schools spreads hope, strength

At the end of the school year, Sierra Middle School in Parker hosted a parent-student community night in which guests traveled to different classrooms to learn about resiliency in the face of …
Kristen Torres, 20, of Parker, speaks at a mental health forum in April hosted by Colorado Community Media, Douglas County Mental Health Initiative and Douglas County Libraries. Torres’ experience of contemplating suicide in high school led her to become an advocate for mental health.
time to talk

Mental health ‘is an OK subject to talk about’

Kristen Torres was home alone when she had thoughts of ending her life. She was 14 years old. Her parents were out of the country. Her older brother was away at college. She had experienced social …
time to talk

‘Just know that it is going to get better’

Never in the popular social group in high school, she was constantly picked on for her weight, freckles and hair color. Kids would push her into lockers, call her fat and, she said, tell her to kill …

Douglas County chosen for study on youth suicide prevention

Because of its population size and suicide rate, which is lower than other counties across the state, Douglas County has been selected for a study conducted by the Colorado Attorney General’s …
Andrew Romanoff, president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado, speaks at the first Time to Talk community mental health forum at Lone Tree Library in April. “In some ways, I think we are at war here,” Romanoff said of the country’s high suicide rate. “It’s just not a war we have declared, but it’s a war we can win.”
time to talk

School tool kit, online screenings geared toward early intervention

Mental Health Colorado, the state’s leading mental health advocacy organization, offers two unique tools for the public to promote the prevention and early intervention of mental illness — one …
Part Three

Dmitri Ramos, a senior at Highlands Ranch High School, checks his phone in class. Many of his peers often do the same. A national study in 2015 says nearly three-quarters of teens had a smartphone or had access to one, and 94 percent of teens went online with a mobile device daily.

Time to Talk: Sharing concerns about social media

Whenever she has free time, Jayden Parks pulls out her phone and checks Instagram or Snapchat. She scrolls through photos, comparing herself to other teens portraying what seem to be perfect lives. …
After negative experiences on social media, Camryn Cowdin, 16, now blocks people who treat her poorly. “Every time I was getting on Facebook, I would feel angry or just really upset in general,” she said.

Cyberbullying can take lasting toll on teens

Camryn Cowdin was checking her Facebook page when she saw hateful posts from a person she considered a friend. Her name was never used, but she knew the words were about her. “He would directly …
Deputy Jay Martin teaches a Y.E.S.S. class at a Douglas County high school. The program is a partnership between the school district and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.
time to talk

Sexting poses legal, psychological risks for teens

When Douglas County Deputy Jay Martin first started teaching about relationships, digital safety and substance abuse prevention, maybe one high school student in each of his classes would raise his …
time to talk

How to help kids manage the digital world

The answer isn’t simple, but educators and mental health professionals agree that steps can be taken to combat the adverse affects of social media use. Setting screen time limits, along with …
Highlands Ranch High School junior Tennissen Rockett, left, talks to Bas Wolfe , who teaches the  school’s Alternative Cooperative Education, or ACE, program, which helps prepare students for career paths and post-secondary education. With a focus on mental health, students learn about their personal strengths and needs.
time to talk

‘Survive today and have an amazing future’

As students trickle into Bas Wolf’s classroom at Highlands Ranch High School, he greets each one by name, asks how they are. Sometimes, a hug accompanies the greeting. “Star Wars” posters, …
time to talk

Schools test out cellphone, technology bans

Last year, after seeing students exchanging hurtful messages online, Kendra Hossfeld, principal of North Star Academy in Parker, challenged her eighth-graders to a “detox week” free of device …
Brett Siebert uses Snapchat and Instagram to keep up with friends who he doesn’t see often or who have moved. “I go to a big school and it’s kind of hard to bump into people,” said Siebert, a junior at Castle View High School.
time to talk

The positives: keeping in touch, finding support

With an enrollment that surpasses 2,000 kids, it’s unlikely Brett Siebert will run into friends between classes as he rushes through the busy hallways at Castle View High School in Castle Rock. To …
Part Two
About the series reporters

Alex DeWind

Award-winning reporter Alex DeWind, 25, reports primarily on Highlands Ranch and the Douglas County School District, but has focused much of her time since November reporting on the state of mental health in Douglas County. A native of Basalt, a small mountain town outside of Aspen, she graduated from University of Colorado-Boulder in May 2015 and joined Colorado Community Media that fall. Reporting the stories in this segment — being privileged to listen to the very personal stories people have shared — has been an emotional journey, DeWind said. “These tragedies forever change the lives of everyone left behind,” she said. “People need to know that they are loved, cared for and that they matter in this world. There are so many things that make life worth living.”

Jessica Gibbs

Jessica Gibbs, 25, began for Colorado Community Media in August 2016, and has already earned statewide awards for her writing. Originally from DeWitt, a small town in southeast Nebraska, she graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and covers Douglas County, Castle Rock and nearby communities.

“As officials on the forefront of the issue have said, there is no perfect answer for improving the mental health system or law enforcement’s role in policing the mentally ill,” Gibbs said. “Let’s keep asking the tough questions until those answers can be found, so those with mental illness have the resources they need and the public rests assured the system is working at its best.”

Troy Thompson, a clinician, left, and Marcos Whyte, a Castle Rock police officer, sit in their patrol car while on duty Feb. 16 as part of the Community Response Team. The team responds to mental health calls as part of a unique program seeking to keep people with mental illness out of jail and the emergency room, but also to provide follow-up care.
Time to Talk

Mental health calls challenge police

In the dark, early-morning hours of New Year’s Eve, Douglas County Deputy Zackari Parrish pleaded through the closed door of a Highlands Ranch apartment with a tenant he believed to be experiencing …
Shauna Shipps, left, licensed professional mental health clinician, and Jennifer Glenn, health services administrator, review paperwork at the Douglas County Justice Center. The two work in the jail, which in recent years has seen an overwhelming number of inmates with mental illness. “There are just no resources,” Glenn said. “You have mentally ill people on the streets, not taking their medication, and then they commit a crime.”
time to talk

‘All of our jails are psychiatric facilities’

At 17 years old, Michael was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He also was battling an addiction to heroin. Through his father’s private insurance, he received treatment and medication for both. In …

Mental health holds weigh liberty vs. public safety

When a person in a mental health crisis is an imminent danger to himself, herself or others, or is gravely disabled by a mental illness, mental health and law enforcement professionals may place them …
Time to Talk
Time to Talk

Officers learn how to de-escalate situations involving mental illness

Jeff Santelli, a retired Douglas County Sheriff’s Office deputy who now works as a CIT trainer, suggested that CIT should be a specialized presence in law enforcement, likening it to SWAT teams. Just like SWAT officers, CIT officers require a specific skillset, Santelli said. “It’s actually a very similar analogy to CIT,” he said. “It’s a specialized training of communication and not everybody is the best communicator.”
Time to Talk

Culture shift affects jail population

Law enforcement and mental health experts point to a culture shift in the approach to mental health treatment in the 1960s for the drastic rise in inmates with mental illness. In 1963, President John …

Checkups mean ‘I’m more likely to stay sober’

Wearing an orange T-shirt and pants, Samuel Cardona sat at a round table in a small glass-walled room of the Douglas County jail, as he talked to a reporter. It was an afternoon in January. He had …
Part One

We all need to talk about mental health

There is one problem in society today that knows no boundaries, affecting rich and poor, conservative and liberal, young and old, all alike. It doesn't discriminate based on ethnicity or nationality or any other method by which we usually divide ourselves.

We all can suffer from mental illness. In fact, one in five of us will experience a mental health issue in our lifetime.

But for such a widespread problem, there is a strange silence that accompanies the problem. It isn't talked about, or if it is, only in hushed tones, or laughed off as a punchline to a joke.

Likewise, too often those actively searching for mental health medical care often find their calls for help met with silence too — a lack of funding, or insurance support, or adequate laws to blame. 

So it's time to talk about it, and really look at mental health in our communities. What's working? What's not? What can all of us do to make things better?

Where to get help

The Douglas County Mental Health Initiative

Supported by the Douglas County Commissioners, in response to several tragic mental health related incidents, the Douglas County Mental Health Initiative has worked to unite community partners to address unmet mental health needs, connect people to mental health services and prevent those in need from falling through the cracks of the mental health system.


100 Third Street

Castle Rock, CO 80104

Click here to go to their web site

Let's talk Colorado

The goal of the Let’s Talk Colorado media campaign is to initiate an inclusive conversation. All Coloradans benefit when we learn to discuss our mental health, and those of us who need treatment are more likely to seek it when we all agree that mental health is everyone’s responsibility.

Spanish language web site. 

English language web site.

Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition

The Douglas County Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition was established in March of 2016 as a component of the Douglas County Mental Health Initiative. The coalition is comprised of numerous agencies in Douglas County that have a stake in youth substance abuse prevention or treatment.

The Coalition is built around the community and meant to provide a cross-sectional representation of community members. The goal of the coalition is to reduce drug and alcohol use among the youth of the county.


Mental Health Colorado

Mental Health Colorado is the state’s leading advocate for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health and substance use disorders. We are a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and an affiliate of Mental Health America.

Statewide help hotline: 1-844-493-TALK (8255) 

County and state mental health and substance abuse facts

Our Papers

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