How to Make the Invisible Visible: How Can Rural Communities Take Care of Their Own Mental Health?

Image result for rural colorado image
Image of rural Colorado

Emphasizing the importance of self-care, especially within communities that do not have access to adequate mental health facilities or professionals.

Welcome to my presentation!

What is so important about this?

Here are some facts that I believe speak for themselves on the importance of mental health care in Colorado:

  1. The leading cause of death for people living in Colorado from ages 10-24 years old is suicide.
  2. Colorado has the 9th highest suicide rate in the entire United States.
  3. Mesa County (located in rural Western Colorado) has the highest suicide rate in the state.
  4. Las Animas County (rural county in Colorado) is almost as big as Connecticut yet it has only one hospital.
  5. 18% of adults in rural parts of Colorado report drinking excessively.
  6. 22 rural Colorado counties do not have any kind of professional psychologist in the area.
  7. It is twice as likely that a minor in rural parts of Colorado will commit suicide than a minor not living in a rural portion of the state.
Mental illnesses can be devastating…

Yes, living in an urban part of Colorado, I have had access to wonderful resources and so many very qualified professionals when I needed them but that does not mean I have escaped seeing the devastation that comes with mental illness. Unfortunately, in the past couple of years, my community of high schools and middle schools has lost a large number of children to suicide. While I did not know any of the victims well, there still was an effect on a widespread group of teens, teachers, and families in the wake of these suicides. Considering the frequency of suicides in Denver, which has 16.8-17.5 deaths by suicide per 100,000 residents, I can’t help but feel terribly for the people in rural Colorado that have 34.7 suicides per 100,000 residents. If such devastation is felt within the community of Denver with these suicides, the effect in these rural areas when suicides occur must be incredibly strong and felt even more often.

Mental health care is important in these areas in order to prevent more suicides but also support the people that have lost someone to suicide.

There are things in the works…

The issue of health care in rural areas is not something that goes unnoticed within the state of Colorado. Fortunately, because it is so recognized there are many organizations and individuals that are dedicating their time to institutional change and community changes.

The Comet Program

The Comet Program was started by the High Plains Research Network (HPRN) in order to provide mental health care for people in all settings by building a community that was educated on how to help someone in a “vulnerable” spot mentally and bring them back to a space of “wellness” and avoid a “crisis”.

This program also incorporated trainings in how to have a conversation with someone who may be approaching a crisis situation. There were simple phrases that anyone could remember and anyone could use. Some of the phrases included “How are you? No really, how are you?” and inquiries into personal life and family life in order to try and open the other person up. The goal was to create mental health care that could be instituted in any situation and between practically any two people, no health professional necessary. This program seems simple but it is the start to a really crucial campaign for mental health care in isolated areas in Colorado.

Bill Created to Stop Mental Health Holds in Jail Cells

Recently, there was a bill that was created by a task force in Colorado that would end a practice in the state that allows individuals to be held in jail cells on mental health-related holds. As it happens, Colorado was only one of six states that still allowed for this to happen. People that were suffering a mental health crisis could be held in jail for up to 24 before being transported to mental health facilities. The task force came up with a $9 million dollar plan that would help properly prepare mental health facilities, particularly in rural communities that were most affected by this law, with being better equipped for mental health crises’ that came their way. It doesn’t help the entire state but it could help a few rural communities which is a strong start!

Call to Action:

My greatest hope is for people to simply learn how to take care of themselves and prioritize their mental health. I highly encourage that people utilize resources, techniques, and ideas that will help them get through the challenges of life. Everyone has the power to dedicate themselves to their well-being!

How to Implement Self-Care

Some Tips from Professionals…

  • Exercise EVERY DAY – This does not have to be an exercise class or it can be! It just needs to be some form of movement incorporated into your day in order to release the endorphins in your brain.
  • Healthy diet – Be aware of what you are putting in your body and work to get the necessary nutrients in each day! This helps to improve your moods and energy levels throughout the day.
  • SLEEP – Sleeping is so important! Between 7 and 9 hours is the perfect amount for a night’s rest and taking naps during the day that are between 15 and 30 minutes also can reenergize your body!
  • No drugs and alcohol – These substances do not contribute anything positive to your physical or mental health. They may temporarily mask feelings inside but they are actually worsening your mental health.
  • Relaxation – Find ways to relax! Practicing meditation, mindfulness activities, and muscle relaxation exercises are always effective.

Some Tips from Me…

  • Read The Prophet by Khalil Gibran! This suggestion may not seem very conventional but I was gifted this book and it has become a guide to my life. There is a magical essence to it that really translates to the reader and it connects to practically any part of life. Whenever I am feeling any negative emotion, I can turn to a page in this book and find some form of clarity. This book does not have to be read in order and it is a very fast read. Therefore, everyone should read this book to take care of their minds!
  • Use sticky-notes! If you’re like me, when things start to get hectic and my mind is feeling cloudy and jumbled, it can feel nearly impossible to get all of my tasks done in a day. I write messages and “to-dos” on sticky-notes and place them strategically around my house or car so that not only am I reminded of what needs to be done but I am reminded in a place that makes sense for that particular task.
  • Maintain a level of cleanliness and organization! I feel tense and on edge when my room, bathroom, work-space, backpack, etc. are all messy and disorganized. All I need is a basic level of organization and a clean area to be surrounded by and I instantly feel better. I encourage everyone to consider what level of organization is necessary for them to feel better about themselves and clear their minds!
  • Step away and breathe! This is my last tip, but when your mind is feeling jumbled just remove yourself from a situation and breathe. It never fails to de-clutter even the most cluttered mind.
  • Notice the positive – Take time to recognize what you appreciate and are grateful for in every day! Remembering the good never hurts.
  • Don’t feel bad about feeling bad – Avoid feeling shameful about feeling upset. It is okay to not feel okay all of the time and being hard on yourself will only worsen the problem, not help it.

There is always someone ready to listen!

Most importantly, there is ALWAYS someone that you can reach out to if you are in need of any help.

1-800-273-8255 (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) (Colorado Crisis Services)

“Who to Follow” List:

Here are some great accounts to follow for everyone. All of these accounts have some element of self-care or positivity to help utilize social media as a strong tool instead of a destructive one.

  1. The Libero Network – @LiberoNetwork (Twitter): This is a great account for people who are struggling with mental illness or may believe they are struggling with mental illness. It provides followers with resources and online articles that encourage self-help and care.
  2. Mari Andrew – @bymariandrew (Instagram): Mari Andrew is an artist and writer. She posts images that all have different visual elements to them but also have messages attached to the images. It is a great account for connecting to another person’s struggles but also finding a tremendous amount of motivation to get through your own life and day.
  3. Cleo Wade – @cleowade (Instagram): Cleo Wade’s Instagram page has become incredibly popular and has a similar idea to Mari Andrew’s. She writes and shares relatable quotes and pieces of writing. She brings support and positivity into all kinds of situations and just everyday life!
Some of Mari Andrew’s work!

Works Cited:


Erb, Kelly, et al. “Snapshot of Rural Health in Colorado (2019).” Snapshot of Rural Health in Colorado (2019), 2019, pp. 1–28. EbscoHost,

News, NBC. “Happiness Expert: Here’s How To Live A Happier Life | Better | NBC News.” YouTube, YouTube, 4 June 2018,

“Taking Care of Yourself.” NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness,

Westfall, Jack M., et al. “Building a Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Health ‘Community of Solution’ in Rural Colorado.” Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Oct. 2018,

“Wireless Internet: Why ZIRKEL Is The Ideal Provider For Northwest CO.” ZIRKEL Wireless, 14 May 2018,

Share this project
  1. April 26, 2019 by Olivia.Reichl

    Hi Payton, I think that the topic you chose is super interesting and something that I have never given much thought to before. I really like your suggestion to use sticky notes because they do help a lot! I think your promotion of a healthy lifestyle is super important especially after we have spent this whole semester talking about how your habits can affect your mental well being. You did a really great job with your cat conf. page, and thank you for sharing more about this super important topic!


  2. April 26, 2019 by Addie Anderson

    Living in a big city, I’ve never really thought to stop and think about the mental impacts of rural vs urban places. This is a really unique topic I hadn’t thought of before! I think it’s also really cool and shows how culture impacts mental health like we’ve been reading about and discussing with Crazy Like Us.

  3. April 27, 2019 by Chloe.Smith-Frank

    Hi Payton,
    I’d never thought about mental health care as needing to be tailored by region, but it makes complete sense! I think your presentation was really well laid out and I learned a lot. Have you come across any attempts to increase the number of mental health facilities in rural Colorado?

    • April 29, 2019 by Payton

      As of right now, the Colorado Rural Health Center is working to improve the quality of health care in rural Colorado but there hasn’t been much focus on increasing mental health facilities that I know of!

  4. April 28, 2019 by Levith Andrade Cuellar

    Hi Payton!
    I admire your passion for this topic and your unique approach by specifically looking at Colorado, your focused approach makes your response and advice much more tailored and easy to understand. I would’ve never imagined how those stats that you put up there, in the start of your presentation, looked like for Colorado.
    As Chloe asked already, is there anything that we can do to help the medical infrastructure environment of Colorado change?

    • April 29, 2019 by Payton

      Thank you for such a sweet comment! I think the best thing that we can do is just continuing to emphasize the importance of mental health in these rural communities because if the people within these communities genuinely start to show interest in having the proper resources for their mental health, the more attention and pressure there will be to encourage the development of these institutions.

  5. April 29, 2019 by Kyra Geschke

    Hey Payton!! I loved this presentation! The video you have in the beginning was a really great way to set up the rest of the page so I really appreciated that. Along with this, I love the concision of this project- there was the perfect amount of information, but it was not overwhelming or too little. So.. really good job I learned a lot about something I had no context about! Congrats on a great job.

  6. May 12, 2019 by Rin Zoot

    I had never even considered that these types of problems with a lack of mental healthcare in rural areas, so this presentation was very informative. Mental health is definitely an extremely important issue which must be addressed, which makes mental healthcare an extreme necessity. I also love how you give tips from professionals, as well as even yourself. Although I have never struggled with mental health myself, I can utilize these tips to help out my friends who could be in need. The “Who to Follow’ List was interesting as well!

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