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An Overview of Mental Health in Loveland, Colorado
The city of Loveland in Larimer County, Colorado is a major business center, sustains a thriving artist population, and also plays host to a great number of summer tourists en route to Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park due to its location along U.S. Highway 34. With a population of 76,906 as of 2016, Loveland is the 14th most populous city in Colorado. Economically, home values and median household incomes in Loveland are more or less on par with the averages for Colorado as a whole, with the median household income being ever so slightly higher than the statewide average and the median home value being ever so slightly lower. Multiple publications have cited Loveland as a great place to live, but what may seem like paradise to some may be purgatory for others.
Mental health statistics pertaining specifically to Loveland are difficult, if not impossible to find. However, statistics are available pertaining to Larimer County, in which Loveland is the second most populous municipality, and mental health statistics in Larimer County paint a grim picture of communities in crisis.
The state of Colorado has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation, and the suicide rate in Larimer County has nearly doubled during a 15-year span from 2004 to 2018. The population growth, on the other hand, has not kept pace with the rate of suicides, which means that the ratio of suicide deaths to the total population in Larimer County has increased since 2004. Keep in mind, too, that these figures are based on coroners’ reports for completed suicides; they don’t take into account those who survive suicide attempts.
Altogether in 2016, there were 83 suicides in Larimer County, which faces a challenge bigger than any one municipality. There is a demonstrable link between mental illness and suicide as 90 percent of the 83 people who died by their own hand in Larimer County in 2016 had a diagnosable mental illness.
Vulnerable Populations in Larimer County
While mental illness can strike anywhere and anyone, regardless of ethnicity, economic status, or age, there are some populations in Larimer County that are viewed as particularly vulnerable when it comes to mental illness.
- Veterans: The number of service members who have returned from tours of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan with mental health challenges, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, are disproportionate. The need for mental health services is crushing, and the VA is not always able to handle it. Many veterans in need of mental health care do not know that the VA provides it, don’t know whether or not they are eligible, and/or don’t know where to go to obtain it. As a result, 50 percent of veterans who could use mental health care do not receive it. Incidentally, PTSD in the military doesn’t only stem from armed conflict. A study demonstrated that 1 out of 4 women and 1 out of 100 men serving in the military have experienced military sexual trauma, a risk factor for PTSD in veterans that probably doesn’t receive the attention it deserves.
- Aging Adults: Symptoms of mental illness in aging adults may be difficult to diagnose. It may be easy to falsely attribute them to other age-related health conditions. The symptoms can be so subtle that primary care physicians can have a failure rate of up to 50 percent when it comes to diagnosing mental illness in the elderly, and older adults are also less likely to report symptoms due to stigma or related factors.
- Youth: While mental illness can strike at any age, adolescents are more prone to depression and more likely to engage in risky behaviors due to hormonal changes and the structure of their developing brains.
New Funding Solution Leads to New Hope
It is not that high-quality mental health treatment is not available in Larimer County at all; rather, it is that demand for mental health services far outstrips the supply of available providers, and also that there is a need for raising awareness. The projected operating budget for comprehensive county-wide mental health intervention is $15.2 million per year. Fortunately, the county may soon receive that much and more thanks to the passage of a recent ballot initiative to raise the countywide sales tax by 0.25 percent to fund a centralized mental health center.