Dealing with Loss

For my series, I’ll be talking about my own personal stories, as well as any stories people are willing to share with us. I wanted to start off with a very touching, but very sad story. I have a friend who I’ve known since middle school. My friend had her sister die by suicide last year. It was a very rough time for my friend and her family, and they are all still trying to cope with it. She went through a very rough stage. There were days that her friends and family was worried about her own safety. One day, she took off all her pictures and information on her social media sites, and turned all her profile pictures to a black screen. She posted a very emotional poem about her sister and her emotions concerning her sister’s death.

She then disappeared. She wasn’t responding to any calls or text messages. She basically fell off the face of the earth. People were going to all of her usual hang outs and were setting up different areas to look for her. It was scary for everyone involved because no one knew for sure what was going on. She was gone for most of the day. Thankfully she eventually drove to her father’s house. She told him that she was not okay, and that she needed help. She has been going to therapy ever since. She has been doing things she enjoys more often now though. She is really into drawing and painting. She has even submitted some of her work into art galleries.

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At the beginning of the year, there are all the award shows. This year’s Oscar winner for Best Animated Film was Big Hero 6. If you haven’t seen Big Hero 6, you should! It is about a kid, Hiro, who meets Baymax. Baymax is an oversized robot that was made by Hiro’s older brother to help people. Hiro becomes friends with all his brother’s friends that he worked with at his school. It’s a very emotional movie; it will make you laugh and it’ll make you cry.

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The reason I mention this movie is because my friend dedicated this movie to her sister after it won the Best Animated Film Award. Spoiler Alert!!! My friend felt like she was able to relate to the character of Hiro because Hiro’s brother dies in the movie. She understood what Hiro was going through in the movie. She knew what it felt like to lose a sibling to something that was out of their control. She was able to connect to Hiro as a character in ways I cannot. I think she would have liked a Baymax in her life too; to have someone there to help her get through a day, a week, a month. Like Hiro, my friend is continuing living her life as best she could. She still thinks about her sister, but understands that she needs to keep living her life in the best way she can. It is important to understand that you can keep living in the best way you can…

Photo credits can be found here and here


Alyssa Arnpriester is an intern at Mental Health First Aid Colorado. To hear more from Alyssa, check out her previous post here or enter your email into the Follow box at the right to stay up to date with the Be a Lifeline blog.

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You rock. We know. Let’s talk.

Alright, it’s time for some real talk. Well actually, since it’s the middle of the week, maybe it’s time for a really cute picture of a koala first.

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Phew, okay, now it’s time for real talk. It’s hard to believe, but the Be a Lifeline blog is now in its fourth month of posting. We are so grateful to be able to share this important conversation space with you, our incredible readers and contributors. Through those four months, we’ve had remarkable guest bloggers, thoughtful staff posts, and engaging events, and we’re so lucky that you’re along for the ride.

Here’s where we’re at now – we need YOU. That’s right, we’re talking to you. No, not your coworker in the next cubicle or your neighbor down the street (although we’d love to talk to them too). You. Why, you might ask? Because we know you have something incredible to share about mental health. Maybe you’ve gleaned important knowledge from your professional life that others would benefit from learning too. Maybe you have lived experience with a mental illness or a mental health challenge and could help us understand that from your perspective. Maybe there’s something awesome going on in your community for mental health and wellness.

Whatever it might be, your voice is crucial to help move us forward in the continual pursuit of increasing education and understanding about mental health and decreasing the stigma and negative perceptions that hold all of us back.

So, here’s our charge: will you be a guest blogger? We can start small with just one post, and then you can decide if you want to keep writing. As long as it relates back to the overall purpose and goals of this conversation space, the sky is the limit on what you can talk about. You can even post anonymously if you’d rather not have your name floating out in cyberspace. If you’re not quite ready to share your story yet, we totally respect that. Just know that if and when you are, we’ll be right here, ready to listen (and read). If you are ready, head on over to the Share a Story tab to start creating your masterpiece now. We’re so excited to hear from you!

And finally, if you’re thinking, “Geez, I would really love to know more about ______________,” or “Wow, I would love to hear about someone else’s experience with ______________,” we want to know! We’ll do our best to find someone with that kind of expertise or experience to share with you. Send us your question or topic idea at the bottom of this page, and we’ll get back to you soon.

Okay, okay – one more koala just for good measure. Happy Wednesday!

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Tomorrow is the day and YOU can still register!

The day for what, you may ask? A fabulous question. Tomorrow is our annual Stepping Up For Our Communities Event – a celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month and Children’s Mental Health Day!

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What we’re most excited to share with you though is that you can still register today! We have space left in both the Adult and Youth Mental Health First Aid courses, and we’d love to see you there. Also, events like these are always more fun with a friend, so please share the love (and the registration links). Please click the appropriate link below to register:

Youth Mental Health First Aid

Adult Mental Health First Aid

When:  Tuesday, May 19, 2015

7:30 am Registration, 8:00 am – 5:30 pm Event

Where:  Arapahoe Community College, 5900 S. Santa Fe Dr., Littleton, CO 80120

We can’t wait to see you there!

Special thanks to our Youth Logo Contest Winner, Dennis H. for the awesome event logo at the top.

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This event was developed under the grant 1H79SM061884-01 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The views, policies, and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of SAMHSA or HHS.

What do the behaviors we see in our students mean? Part 2

We’re guessing you were waiting for it, so here it is: Part 2 of Evan Page’s post about the behaviors we see in our students! In case you want a refresher, here’s where you can find Part 1. Thanks again, Evan!


I spent a few years working at a specialized residential treatment center. Our typical student had been struggling significantly in the home and at school. They had bounced from outpatient therapy to other residential centers and wilderness boot camps before coming to us. To get to that level of care, the behaviors have to be really rocking the boat especially in terms of relationships.

The students worked hard to keep distance between themselves and people who tried to help- and they were very good at it. Cussing, disrespect, and a general “screw you” attitude was fairly pervasive and, if you allowed yourself to get caught up in the onslaught on the surface, it would be easy to become hardened and resentful, building your own walls for protection.

However, I was able to avoid that trap each time by remembering their history and looking at the background that formed their lens. Abandonment, abuse, and neglect and the earliest of ages, when their lens was most vulnerable, formed a worldview that people were unsafe– even, and especially, those that said they wanted to help.

I share this to clean up your lens a bit. To wipe off that little smudge left by a former collogue, student, or bully from your past and to allow a clearer picture of what is happening. Our clients, students, and families are hurting in our communities. They have difficult home lives, lots of stress, little support, and feel insecure about who they are and their value to us. When we are able to have a clear understanding, we can have a softer heart and a more gentle approach. And that is what they really need.


Evan Page has specialized in providing therapy for families and teens struggling with trauma, attachment disorder, and mood regulation issues. Evan is currently a therapist with North Range Behavioral Health, serving as the School-Based Engagement Specialist.

Faith and Mental Health: A Natural Connection

If the snow this past weekend has you a little confused, don’t worry. We’re feeling it too. Regardless of Colorado’s weather, it is still May, which means we are still celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month and preparing for Stepping Up For Our Communities! As you’re thawing out this Monday morning, we hope you’ll take a few minutes to connect with Rikke Siersbaek, Program Associate at Mental Health First Aid Colorado, on the crucial connection between faith and mental health!


The intersection of mental health and faith is a busy place. For some, mental health challenges are made easier by their faith but for others their faith stands in the way of truly understanding mental illness and treatment options. Research shows that the most common source of help for people developing mental health issues is clergy, not mental health professionals.

Sometimes this is a good thing – in fact sometimes faith leaders are the first to see a change in a congregant and might help steer the person toward recovery. And a study from 2012 showed that “people with a moderate to high level of belief in a higher power do significantly better in short-term psychiatric treatment than those without belief.” However, other faith leaders dismiss mental illness as spiritual weakness and recommend prayer and religious study as the only solution.

The challenge that mental health advocates face, then, is to encourage people’s faith to be a part of their recovery because we know that it helps. But at the same time, it is important to continually work to reduce stigma and promote expanded knowledge of mental illness and its many causes among clergy and congregants alike.

Mental Health First Aid is one tool faith communities can use to expand basic mental health literacy and learn the how to help. Around the country, many clergy and lay people have been trained in Mental Health First Aid adding practical skills to complement their spiritual abilities. In one pastor, Nathan Krause’s, experience, MHFA has empowered him and the lay members of his congregation’s health ministry. When talking to MHFA US he said that he and his congregants feel like: “I do have something to offer. I can understand this at my level.” And he says, “when you have the actual tools and resources for additional help at hand, it makes a world of difference. Mental Health First Aid is a real powerful tool in the hands of church members to enhance their skills and ability to offer a health ministry.”

In Colorado, we are lucky to have hundreds of fabulous MHFA and YMHFA trainers, and many have experience working with faith communities. If your faith community is interested in having an instructor train your congregation, your clergy, your lay leadership or a combination of folks in MHFA, let us know! We will be happy to help!

Contact us at registration@mhfaco.org or 720-573-3590. We look forward to hearing from you!

What do the behaviors we see in our students mean? Part 1

In the continued celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month, we would like to celebrate a very special day today — May 7, 2015 is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day! And, we could think of no better way to celebrate than by introducing our first guest blogger — Evan Page, the School-Based Engagement Specialist at North Range Behavioral Health. This post is part one of a two-part series, so be sure to check in next Thursday to see part two. Thank you, Evan!


While negative behaviors may be concerning in and of themselves, it is important to remember that they are beacons, sending out pings of hidden distress. Tracking the signal backwards, behaviors we see are indicators of a hidden issue- a cause behind the symptoms. As community leaders and MHFA instructors, you have a fantastic view of behavior and, if you know what it translates to, you have a great head start toward deeper empathy for the people in your sphere of influence and you will be able to experience better self-care.

We are constantly communicating with ourselves, giving internal feedback for every action we take. The way we speak to ourselves is determined by how we view ourselves and the world. Different people will have different perceptions of the same situation as a result of how they take in and process information.

We can’t process all the information that happens in an event, so we subconsciously pick out bits and pieces that seem important and categorize them in our mind. What we select and categorize is heavily influenced by our past experiences and forms our beliefs.

The central belief about who we think we are (acceptable vs. unacceptable) is reflected in what we say in this inner dialogue. That dialogue then naturally flows out into our behaviors. Someone who constantly berates herself is going to act differently than the person who is happy and content with who she is.

Early life events — Beliefs — Inner dialogue — Behaviors

We all see life through a lens and no one has a crystal clear, unbiased picture of interactions in which we partake or events that we witness. We have smudges, cracks, and dust on the glass between us and the world as a result of our past. For a young man who has had traumatic experiences on the battlefield, a situation that may be harmless to others may send him into a flashback. The idea of the holidays arriving may bring up feelings of joy and excitement for some people, while dread and weariness fill others depending on the damage that has been done to their lens in past experiences, and the effectiveness of efforts to repair that damage.

So behaviors mean that something is going on beneath the surface– no surprise there. Having the knowledge of exactly what is going on is where you personally benefit.

(part two continued next week)


Evan Page has specialized in providing therapy for families and teens struggling with trauma, attachment disorder, and mood regulation issues. Evan is currently a therapist with North Range Behavioral Health, serving as the School-Based Engagement Specialist.

Mental Health and Addiction: Starting the Conversation

As you dive into your Monday afternoon, we hope you’ll take a few minutes to engage with Britta Johnson, our Implementation Specialist, on the important topic of mental health and addiction.


As I sit in my office looking out at the beautiful green and bright colors of our emerging Colorado spring, I contemplate how to start this conversation. Typing and then deleting my starting sentence over and over I was left with a blank page and a blinking cursor.

So what is it about substance use that makes it difficult to start the conversation.  Could it be the culture of anonymity that has taught us not to speak up about it?  Is it the countless television shows and mass media coverage of celebrity rehab scandals that marginalizes this serious health condition?  Or perhaps its years of being silent that has stigmatized individuals to remain silent on the issue.

Understandably, some people in recovery are reluctant to go public.  But when someone does put a face and voice on recovery with his or her personal story, the general public and policymakers can finally access the powerful message of hope that has resonated for years in underground communities of recovery.

A recent documentary, The Anonymous People, was released that addresses this very topic.  The film features the 23.5 million Americans living in long-term recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. Deeply entrenched social stigma and discrimination have kept recovery voices silent and faces hidden for decades. The vacuum created by this silence has been filled by sensational mass media depictions of people in active addiction that continue to perpetuate a lurid public fascination with the dysfunctional side of what is a preventable and treatable health condition. Just like women with breast cancer, or people with HIV/AIDS, courageous addiction recovery advocates are starting to come out of the shadows to tell their true stories. The moving story of The Anonymous People is told through the faces and voices of the leaders, volunteers, corporate executives, and celebrities who are laying it all on the line to save the lives of others just like them. This passionate new public recovery movement is fueling a changing conversation that aims to transform public opinion, and finally shift problematic policy toward lasting recovery solutions.

The good news is that through open conversations regarding mental health and substance use, we are starting to see a shift in focus on how we approach these.  Integrated care models are becoming more prevalent to allow for the joined treatment of physical and mental illnesses at the same time.  Politicians are supporting increased government spending on strategic initiatives that directly focus on mental health and substance use.

By opening up and allowing ourselves and others to start the conversation, we are able to make positive progressive change and impact lives around us.