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.
Part Eight

Time to Talk: Employers putting more focus on mental health in the workplace

Caitlyn Grathwohl, a baker in a Castle Rock grocery store, has no reason to worry about being fired, yet the thought is always on her mind. The lonely hours on the night shift add to a feeling of …

Larger companies use EAPs to support employee mental health

One of the most prevalent mental health programs used by large businesses — including Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree; Douglas County School District; and Kroger, which operates King Soopers …

'A recipe to comfort your mind'

Douglas County School District — which with about 8,000 employees is the county's largest employer — believes using peer involvement to recognize and combat mental health issues its staff may be …

Daily stress of law enforcement work can build up

In law enforcement, having a sound frame of mind on a daily basis is paramount. Different agencies use different tactics to relieve stress or provide an outlet for an officer to talk through their …

Part Seven

Men and mental illness: Suffering in silence

Brett Zachman vividly remembers his first panic attack. He was driving at 10 a.m. on a Thursday morning, not long after the woman he'd been seeing for three months ended their relationship. That …

'You're supposed to be the hero'

As a husband and father, Hal Knight believed he needed to take care of everyone. To your children, "you're supposed to be the hero," he said. To your spouse, “you're supposed to be the guy taking …

Fear of judgment keeps men from talking about mental illness

Although one in five adults live with a mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, many fear speaking openly about their mental health. A Parker man, who spoke to Colorado …

Mental stability can be challenge for aging

Toward the front of a crowded conference room at Legacy Village senior community in Castle Pines, 82-year-old Marilyn McQueary sat quietly through a presentation on finding purpose in life after …

Report finds good variety of senior services, but gaps remain

Throughout recent years, Douglas County has made moves to address projections that the nation's senior population will boom over the next decade. The Partnership of Douglas County Governments (PDCG) …
Part Six
Community Forum

WATCH: Time to Talk public forum on mental health and families

It's time to talk about mental health. Mothers and mental health advocates talk about how mental illness affects families, and why — and how — we need to talk about it. The free community …

Maternal depression: ‘When you feel connected, it changes everything'

Lissa Miller, 31, has a history of mild depression and anxiety — the conditions run in her family. She used to manage her symptoms with exercise and meditation. But two years ago, soon after Miller …

Moms ‘need to know that they are not alone’

Nikki Brooker describes herself as confident, able-bodied, a Type A personality. She has a master’s degree in education and taught various subjects in all grades for 20 years in school districts …
Lissa Miller with her husband and daughters. “Moms really are the cornerstone of the family,” she said. “If we can’t take care of ourselves, if we are not healthy mentally or physically, it impacts our families.”

‘I felt like I was failing all the time’

Throughout her life, Lissa Miller experienced some depression and anxiety. The mental health disorders run in her family. She managed her symptoms by being mindful and exercising. In her early 20s, …

To take care of your child, you have to take care of yourself

As an infant, Maureen Lake’s daughter was restless, finicky. In her younger years, she was prone to tantrums, boisterous. When she turned 16, she had no interest in getting her license or dating. …

Pregnancy-related mood disorders affect the whole family

After Maria Ayers gave birth to twins, she struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety. Perpetually exhausted and overwhelmed, Ayers didn’t have the energy to give as much attention to her …
Part Five

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 degree of a marijuana-use disorder. This is often associated with “dependence,” NIDA says on its website, in which a person feels withdrawals when not using.

Frequent users report symptoms such as irritability, difficulty sleeping, moodiness, low appetite, cravings and physical discomfort after quitting.

If a person cannot stop using marijuana and it is interfering with his or her life, he or she may be addicted.

“Estimates of the number of people addicted to marijuana are controversial, in part because epidemiological studies of substance use often use dependence as a proxy for addiction,” NIDA says, “even though it is possible to be dependent without being addicted.”

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 …

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 …
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 …

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 …
Our View

Editorial: It takes a unified front to treat a dual diagnosis

For Terry Schamberger, 51, a lifelong addiction to alcohol began when he was 13, triggered by emotional trauma caused by the death of his sister in a car accident and an unsettled family life. For …
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. You can watch video of the forum here

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
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.”

Nick Puckett

Nick Puckett, 22, began covering Parker and Lone Tree in May, after his graduation from the University of Montana, where he earned a journalism degree.
He spent the past couple of months reporting on how and why businesses are responding to the challenge of mental illness in the workplace.
“The whole experience was pretty eye-opening,” said Puckett, who grew up in Castle Rock. “I learned mental health can look so different from person to person. I was impressed with the creative ways different businesses went about supporting mental health, but also realized there’s still so far to go.”

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
How to talk about mental illness

Let’s Talk Colorado, launched in May, is a statewide campaign created by Tri-County Health Department and other partner organizations to combat the stigma of mental illness. In English and Spanish, defines mental health and stigma, as well as provides links to local and statewide resources.

The campaign also provides tips on how to talk about mental health, such as:
• Be nice.
• Keep in contact.
• Offer help.
• Listen.
• Keep the conversation moving.
• Don’t ignore it. is a national campaign to combat the stigma of mental illness. On its website, visitors can learn about mental illness, answer a questionnaire on stigmatic behaviors and read about individual experiences with stigma. The campaign provides resources that can be used to teach, share, learn and speak about mental illness and stigma. Below are phrases the campaign recommends to use and to avoid when discussing mental health.

Try saying:
• “Thanks for opening up to me.”
• “How can I help?”
• “I’m sorry to hear that. It must be tough.”
• “I’m here for you when you need me.”
• “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”
• “People do get better.”
• “Can I drive you to an appointment?”
• “How are you feeling today?”
• “I love you.”

Avoid saying:
• “It could be worse.”
• “Just deal with it.”
• “Snap out of it.”
• “Everyone feels that way sometimes.”
• “You may have brought this on yourself.”
• “We’ve all been there.”
• “You’ve got to pull yourself together.”
• “Maybe try thinking happier thoughts.”

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
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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