May is Mental Health Awareness Month

[Content warning: self-harm and suicide will be discussed in the following story.] 

The human brain is the most complex and advanced organ in any living creature in the entire biosphere. Inside of the human brain lie tens of billions of neurons, controlling every single facet of the human body. These neurons also process what makes a person, well, a person. Thoughts, sights, sounds and memories are all processed by these neurons, stored away in the human mind. While the human brain is a very complex and beautiful thing, it often comes under attack from diseases, disorders and other detrimental health issues. That is why the month of May has been designated as Mental Health Awareness Month, an entire month dedicated to bringing awareness to various issues that impact one’s mental health and ways to combat them.  

One of the leading causes of death in the United States is suicide, a result usually caused by a variety of mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. 12.2 million, 3.2 million, 1.2 million, and 46,000: these numbers reflect who seriously considered suicide, planned, acted on that plan, and fell victim to that plan in 2020 respectively. That amounts to one death roughly every 11 minutes. Those are just the reported numbers.  

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and the second leading cause of death among people ages 10-34. It’s such a cause for concern that it has been labeled as an epidemic among the nation’s youth due to causes such as depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders; substance abuse; trauma; social isolation; financial or job loss; and stigmatization, according to a study by To Write Love On Her Arms, a nonprofit dedicated to mental health awareness, and Newport Healthcare

Developmental disorders are another major mental health issue. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and chromosome abnormalities actively hamper the ability of the individual to develop at the same rate mentally and socially as peers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one out of six children in the United States ages 3-17 has at least one developmental disability.  

As one of the largest transit agencies in the nation, RTD has seen the effects of what these mental health issues can do to people firsthand. That is why the agency is working with the city and county of Denver, the Denver Police Department and the Colorado Department of Health and Human Services, among others, to develop and execute tactics to provide aid and crisis services to those suffering from mental health issues.  

RTD has hired a team of mental health clinicians to go out onto the agency’s buses, trains and properties to assist customers who may be in a crisis. Additionally, RTD has partnered with the city and county of Denver to enlist Wellness Winnie, a program by the city that travels to various locations throughout Denver to provide behavioral health and support services from trained and certified counselors. These services include behavioral health screenings, active referrals to services such as medical, legal and social services, warming/cooling from the elements, Narcan and Naloxone distribution, among others.  

Customers and employees alike are encouraged to contact Transit Watch via phone, text, email or the RTD Transit Watch app if someone appears to be experiencing a mental health crisis so that a mental health clinician can be dispatched. Alternatively, those that are considering suicide are encouraged to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) by calling or texting the new three-digit short code 988 to connect to trained counselors that are part of the NSPL network or calling the original number at (800) 273-8255.