People make the difference in aiding mentally ill |

People make the difference in aiding mentally ill

Dear Editor,

I recently read the article about Jeff Hiltner’s suicide. His family and friends are no more bewildered by the community’s way of dealing with serious mental health issues than dozens of other people in recent years. The situation that exists regarding help for people with mental health problems in the area, especially concerning Colorado West Mental Health, and the other agencies his family tried to deal with, is appalling.

Even when people know they are in trouble, and are desperate for help, the community would be shocked by the way these health problems are addressed (or not addressed). It is not necessarily true that “All you need to do is ask for help.”

Too often, there is no response at all. If an urgent phone call is even returned by an agency like Colorado West Mental Health, it is often delayed for days. The lack of response seems to say, “You don’t matter; you don’t know what a real crisis is; there’s nothing anyone can do to help you.” If the call is returned, there are often lectures, blame and criticism, but no help.

In all fairness to the other side, there is a very limited, qualified number of people to handle these situations. The mental health care workers are overloaded with cases they can’t get to. To really help someone, there has to be time to work with the person. But working from crisis to crisis doesn’t allow for that.

People can make a difference. There has been progress in other parts of the state. It takes time, effort and deep commitment. For those of us with mental health issues, the ability to follow through on these commitments can be very difficult. I wish the best of luck to those of you who are trying to make positive changes.

I have so much I want to say concerning the existing problems, my own experiences, and the experiences of others I’ve walked beside through the nightmare of trying to get help. But there’s limited space here.

There are grants that have been offered across the state for education in suicide prevention. But Garfield County wasn’t on the list. Why? If ever a county was in need of suicide prevention, education and knowledge, Garfield County certainly qualifies.

If I can offer support, information or encouragement, I am willing to try. My e-mail address is I will do my best to respond in a timely manner.


Judy Benham



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