By Mekialaya White

DENVER (CBS4) – It’s been nearly two months since the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Colorado, and the current crisis is affecting daily life in profound ways. It’s taking its toll on mental health, and state leaders want to illuminate the topic so Coloradans know they’re not alone in their fight.

On Friday at noon, Attorney General Phil Weiser, Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera, Mental Health Colorado President & CEO Vincent Atchity, state Rep. Lois Landgraf and state Sen. Pete Lee were scheduled to hold a virtual proclamation for Mental Health Awareness Month, starting at noon. Advocates with Mental Health Colorado are sponsoring the event. They say we’ll likely continue to experience consequences from the pandemic.

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“We are excited to have the strength of state leadership focused on mental health,” said Atchity. “Now, more than ever, we’re concerned about the mental health of the population at large as so many people experience this kind of extreme threat to their normal way of life, where they’re living in an unfamiliar state of prolonged isolation. And very familiar state of prolonged uncertainty about how this is going to resolve.”

With the downturn of the economy, unemployment numbers skyrocketing, and children and families living in close quarters, Atchity says there are all kinds of stressors that can contribute to heightened anxiety. In turn, he says, that can lead to substance abuse.

He encourages those struggling, “Don’t be mastered by substances. Be extremely cautious. The best thing that one can do to manage stress is to control your flow of information so you’re not obsessing about the pandemic all day long.”

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Atchity says disconnecting when needed is also key. However, that doesn’t mean distancing yourself from loved ones emotionally.

“We’ve landed on this notion of social distancing. It’s sort of an unfortunate choice of words. We should have decided upon physical distancing, which is what we really need to prevent the spread of the virus because what we need socially is to be there for one another and to share this common sense that we’re going to get through this together and provide a lot of support for each other.”

In that support, we can all find strength, Atchity explained, “The way we have responded to this pandemic by bringing our economy to a standstill is a real sign of mental strength because what it shows is that we are willing to stop everything in order to save lives and we ought to take courage from that and use that as a launching point of how we come back together and build a community that’s supportive of better outcomes for all of us.”

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If you’re looking for help, don’t hesitate.  Colorado Crisis Services has 24/7 access to clinical care. 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255. Mental Health Colorado also has free resources at mentalhealthcolorado.org.

Mekialaya White