Look Around, Look Within: Your surroundings affect your mental health

May 23, 2023

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Take a moment to consider your surroundings. Do you feel safe? Do you have access to health care and grocery stores? Do you have support at home, both physically and mentally?

This Mental Health Month, Denver Health asks its employees and the community to consider how different factors can affect mental health.

Where a person is born, lives, learns, works, plays and gathers, as well as their economic stability and social connections, are part of “social determinants of health.”

For more than a century, Denver Health has provided mental health care for the Denver community. In the 1890s, when horse-drawn ambulances would arrive at Denver Health — then called City Hospital — staff would be alerted to the nature of a patient's illness by ringing a bell. One bell for trauma, three bells for an overdose or suicidal patient. Psychiatric care is part of Denver Health's mission and history.

The ringing of those bells echoes today.

Our community is much more aware of mental health and social challenges in 2023, including severe psychiatric illness, addiction, discrimination, poverty and experiencing homelessness. Dr. Scott Simpson, associate director of Behavioral Health Services at Denver Health, said Mental Health Month is an opportunity to re-dedicate ourselves to delivering evidence-based and compassionate care to those in our community who need it most.

“Mental Health Month is also a moment to refresh our own sources of strength and resilience,” Simpson said. “In part by reminding ourselves of the positive work going on all around us: an individual patient's recovery, the comradery of a great team or the recovery journeys of the more than 85,000 patients who received behavioral health care at Denver Health last year.”

Mental Health Month

But Denver Health also recognizes the need to support those who support patients.

Denver Health RESTORE, or Resilience & Equity through Support & Training for Organizational Renewal (formerly RISE, or Resilience in Stressful Events, which started in 2020), launched last fall to promote increased and sustained mental well-being of all employees. RESTORE offers confidential, peer-delivered emotional support, psychological first aid and training. These services help to combat compassion fatigue and burnout.

Symptoms of burnout are reported by over 50% of nurses, physicians, medical students, residents and pharmacists in the U.S.

Maria Gonsalves Schimpf, director of Denver Health RESTORE, referenced Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, who has stated that we are in a crisis of emotional well-being as a society, highlighting loneliness and isolation as a public health threat.

“As we consider our mental well-being and the need to find joy, fulfillment and meaning in our very intense and demanding work as health care providers, I think about the importance of remembering that we heal in relationships,” Schimpf said. “Dr. Murthy states that we were designed to be in connection to one another; we were designed to grow connections together.

“When we lean into that, we are caring for our mental health and we join others in the collective responsibility. When we commit to this value and take action in our daily lives to meaningfully connect to others, we are building a community at Denver Health, in the City and County of Denver and beyond.

Denver Health is supporting its roughly 8,000 employees this month by offering a variety of mental health activities and awareness events to help promote a culture of workplace well-being for all. Activities include a mental health calendar challenge for prizes; “Mindful Moments” sessions in the RESTORE Support Center; tabling events for mental health resources, information and swag; puppies on campus for pet therapy; an employee-taught yoga class and more.

Mental Health America, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting the overall mental health of all, contributed to this story and offered steps you can take to support your well-being:

Mental Health Month

  • Work toward securing safe and stable housing: This can be challenging due to finances, age, and other reasons, but there are a few things you can try, such as reaching out to state/local agencies to secure housing, removing safety hazards in the home, or finding another space (such as a community center or friend’s home) where you can get the comfort you are missing at home.
  • Focus on your home: Consider keeping your space tidy, sleep-friendly, and well-ventilated. Surround yourself with items that help you feel calm and positive.
  • Create bonds with your neighborhood and community: Get to know the people living around you, join or start neighbors-helping-neighbors groups, and support local businesses.
  • Connect with nature: Hike in a forest, sit in a city park, bring a plant inside, or keep the shades open to absorb natural light.


Visit mhanational.org/may to learn more.