Bike parade delivers message that help with mental health is available
Glum statistics about Colorado’s mental health illness epidemic and an opioid and suicide crisis prompted the nonprofit group Healthier Colorado to do something a little different.
Amid the sound of ringing bike bells and bicycles decorated with streamers and balloons, participants readied for an event Saturday morning at Lincoln Park.
If you’re going to increase awareness about mental illness, why not do it with a bike parade, the group reasoned.
“Every time we come to Grand Junction or anywhere else in Colorado the main problems people talk about is substance abuse and mental health,” said Jake Williams, executive director of Healthier Colorado. “We want to let people know about the resources that exist and do our part to de-stigmatize it as much as possible.”
Healthier Colorado initially toured the state conducting listening tours and currently is conducting bike rides to increase awareness about mental health issues and working to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness.
Saturday’s bike ride brought out a few dozen people who rode bikes through some downtown Grand Junction neighborhoods. Several workers with nonprofit agencies attended the event to connect residents with resources to help with substance abuse, suicide prevention and addressing mental health issues.
Sonja Encke, a nurse with the Grand Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said she attended the event in an effort to raise awareness for women veterans. Women veterans often don’t seek out Veterans Affairs for their health benefits because they don’t feel they qualify, but oftentimes they do qualify, Encke said.
Veterans still are committing suicide at high rates, with an average of 20 veterans dying by suicide each day. About 14 of those 20 veterans aren’t enrolled in the VA, VA studies show.
On Saturday, Encke promoted the hotline for people to call in crisis. Encke and some co-workers handed out bandannas, collapsible dog bowls and lip balm labeled with the crisis number.
“You don’t have to be a veteran to call the crisis line,” Encke said.
The number is 1-800-273-8255. Veterans press 1.
The Skidmores came out Saturday to do their part to increase awareness of mental illness and suicide. Kristy Skidmore heard about the event through her job working at Hilltop. Her husband, Larry, was ready to pull their 2-year-old Wyatt, in a bike trailer. The couple said they are aware of the toll suicide has on the community. They each dealt with suicides of fellow students in their respective high schools.
“I’m not sure what they’re learning (now) in high school. Maybe they’re making it more of an issue,” Kristy Skidmore said.
The family said they wanted to attend to show their support.
“We just thought, ‘Why not?’” she said.