6 Ways to Make New Year’s Resolutions Stick

Woman going over her new years resolutionsThe arrival of the new year is a great time to make a fresh start in how you address your physical, mental and emotional health. Many people make New Year’s resolutions to get more exercise, quit smoking, eat better, start a meditation practice, etc. Unfortunately, too often our initial enthusiasm quickly fades, and we abandon those health initiatives. Does that mean we simply shouldn’t make resolutions in the first place? No, not at all. As we tell people at our family counseling center, committing to improving your health and your life in general is a very good thing. The key is to approach those promises in a way that helps you keep them. 


Six Tips for Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions

Even before you set your first goal for next year, resolve to read this list of tips for sticking with your resolutions!

  1. Be selective. Most of us have many areas of our lives where we could make improvements. However, changing behaviors takes significant effort. Choose too many objectives and you will likely struggle to have the time or energy to achieve any of them.
  2. Start slowly. If your goal is to exercise regularly, and ultimately you want to be working out five days each week, start by committing to one or two. Gradual changes in your routine are much more likely to become habits and then ongoing behaviors.
  3. Discuss your intentions and your progress. Letting a friend or family member know what you are attempting to do can both help you feel a sense of accountability and give you someone to talk to about your successes and setbacks.
  4. Be kind to yourself. Few people have ever made a New Year’s resolution and then stuck with it without fail. When you backslide a bit, know that you are not alone and also that there’s no reason you can’t pick up right where you left off on the resolution when you’re ready to do so.
  5. Keep a journal. Jotting some quick notes regularly about how things are going with your resolution can be very enlightening. For one thing, it can help you identify patterns that may be useful in making changes to your routine. For example, if you frequently indicate that you didn’t enjoy your Monday trip to the gym, perhaps Monday should be a rest day and you would enjoy the workout more on Tuesdays.
  6. Give yourself a pass for real-life interruptions. You get the flu and can’t work out for a week. Your work schedule gets hectic and you have to eat fast food on the run more than you’d like. While you need to hold yourself accountable to keep your resolutions, there will be times that life makes it essentially impossible. Don’t count those instances as “breaking” your resolution; think of them as “pausing” it!


Okay, Okay, But Can I Make it Fun?

These six tips will work for you. However, not all resolutions in the mix have to be entirely earnest. Sometimes a playful resolution mixed with the serious ones can help you stay mindful of all your resolutions. It can be fun. Here are a few: 1) Play a board game with your family once a month; 2) Send a birthday card to all your relatives; 3) Improve your handwriting; 4) Have a Super Saturday with each family member through the year in which each picks a fun activity to enjoy with you; or 5) Write down the best jokes you hear through the year on your smartphone to share at the end of the year. Remember laughing is good for your mental health. You get the idea.


Helping Make Steady Progress Toward Your Goals

New year’s resolutions can improve your mental and emotional health, but sometimes the insights of a skilled counselor are required to overcome mental health challenges. Please don’t hesitate to seek help. Contact us online or call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for more information about our family counseling services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.


9 Tips for Enjoying Stress-Free Holidays

Woman deep in thought

The holidays can be a wonderful time of joy and celebration with family and friends. However, they can also be a source of anxiety and stress. Fortunately, steps can be taken to make the holidays less stressful and more enjoyable. As a provider of mental health services, we encourage our consumers to be proactive and to celebrate in the ways that work best for them.


Festivities That Fit Your Lifestyle

Too often the holidays are focused on pleasing others in everything from the way we decorate to the gifts we give. That feeling of being “out of control” is one of the main reasons that the holidays can be stressful. Use the nine tips below to make the season more fun and festive.

  1. Make decisions early. Should I serve ham or turkey? White lights or colored lights outside? Real tree or artificial tree? There are no right or wrong answers to these kinds of questions. Rather than pondering them endlessly, give them brief consideration, make a decision and move on.
  2. Set a gift budget and stick to it. Financial stress is an unfortunate aspect of the holidays for many people, especially when they spend more than they had intended. Set a reasonable budget for gift purchases, write it down and stick to it.
  3. Consider a break from tradition. Enjoying the holidays in the same way each year can be a source of comfort, but it can also start to feel restrictive. Don’t hesitate to break from certain traditions if doing so will lower your stress level.
  4. Take care of your mind and body. In the last few months of the year, it’s easy for all the activities and obligations to push the things you do to maintain your mental and physical health to the back burner. Don’t let that happen. Eat well, get plenty of rest, exercise regularly, pray or meditate and in general make an effort to be good to yourself.
  5. Learn to say “No.” The demands on your time during the holidays can be overwhelming. Make a list of all the activities you could participate in and then scratch items off the list until you have a reasonable agenda. It may be hard to do, but it is well worth the effort.
  6. Overcome perfectionist tendencies. Trying too hard to make everything about the holidays “perfect” is a major source of stress. Remind yourself frequently that letting go of perfectionism lets you get a better hold on happiness!
  7. Ask for help. As they say, “Many hands make light work.” Get other family members involved in decorating, cooking and cleaning. They may groan at first, but they will likely find that shared tasks bring a sense of camaraderie that makes the holidays more fun.
  8. Go tech-free now and then. Especially during holiday meals and events, put your smartphone away and ask that others do the same. The constant distraction of alerts and updates can keep your body and mind in a perpetual “fight or flight” state that can be exhausting.
  9. Focus on gratitude. If the holidays have been stressful for you in the past, it’s easy to have expectations that the same will be true this year. Rather than thinking about the negative aspects of prior holidays, keep redirecting your mind to the things you are grateful for. It can be difficult to break free from pessimistic thought patterns, but if you are persistent, you can do it!


Social Anxiety Disorders and the Holidays

The holidays can be especially stressful for people who have a social anxiety disorder. Using the tips above can be helpful, but consider professional mental health services for you or a loved one. A skilled counselor can talk about specific situations and help to develop strategies for navigating the unique challenges of this time of year.

Fill out our contact form or call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for more information about our counseling services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Sip smart during the holidays

Alcoholic beverages are served at many holiday celebrations. Just as there are a zillion types of holiday cookies, there are many festive alcoholic beverages. The creative drinks can be fun, but a challenge to moderation and good health.

Ready, set, go

During the holidays, it is easy to overdo it with alcoholic beverages, so take some time to think it through before you jingle out the door to events waiting for you. Perhaps consider who you would like to team up with throughout the holiday season to set your limits. Whether it is family member, significant other or a friend, this kind of partnership can be powerful and effective.

A few techniques:

  • Time: Arrive early and depart before the heavy drinking ensues. As a courtesy, it is a nice touch to alert the host or hostess when you plan to leave.
  • Travel: Make sure you have reliable sober transportation or be prepared to call for a ride. Choosing a designated driver is a practice that college students are encouraged to follow, and the practice should apply to everyone during the holiday season. Keep an eye on each other – even a little alcohol can impair driving skills and judgment.
  • Consumption: If you have decided not to drink alcohol, bring your favorite beverage and consider pouring it in a party glass to fit in with the crowd. If you will be drinking alcohol, make a pact to have one drink then switch to water or a soft drink.
  • Health always: Consider taking a walk now and then as a health break to mix with the merriment.

What is moderation?

Indulging in alcoholic drinks in moderation really means having no more than one standard drink a day for women and up to two standard drinks for men age 65 and younger, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It can be easy to exceed these limits, especially when someone else is topping off your glass. The CDC accepted measure long-term for moderate drinking means women who drink more than seven drinks per week and men who drink more than 14 drinks week after week are at risk.

Good to know

Okay, so why can men can drink more than women? What is the science? Two facts: 1) Women tend to have less muscle tissue than men. Muscle tissue contains water, and alcohol dissolves in water and is thus diluted. Due to the fact that men have about 10 percent more water in their bodies, they can drink more alcohol than women without becoming intoxicated; 2) Men also have more of an enzyme in their stomachs that metabolizes alcohol. This is important to know and important to share with young drinkers.

A question of openness

Perhaps you just want everyone to be safe in a general sense or you want to be part of setting good examples. If you are comfortable sharing your personal concerns with family and friends, consider being open with them. If you are recovering from alcoholism or another SUD (Substance Use Disorder), it may make sense to talk about triggers with your support circle Practice your pat response for declining a drink.   Recovery will be as private or public as you want it to be, depending on how much you want to share with others. Likewise, if you are coping with depression, it may make sense to talk about what makes you feel safe and supported during this time.  

Plan the season

Consider the overall events and activities of the holiday season.

  • Which activities make you feel good? Sometimes volunteering to help with various causes that are important to you intensifies your sense of purpose.. Check the mix.
  • Which activities foster genuine connection to the people in your life? Concentrate on taking part in events that involve little or no drinking. Perhaps a concert with holiday music or a tour of holiday decorations are among activities to keep everyone in a healthful state of mind.
  • What should your plan look like? Focus on a few key events and limit the amount of time at events that don’t support your values and your health. Your planning can be as simple or involved as you like.

Finding the right mix of healthy habits is key to mental health during the holidays and day to day. If you have a mental health concern about yourself or a loved one, we are glad to consult with you at Community Reach Center. To get more information about our metro Denver mental health centers visit communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Mental Health Center Emphasizes Importance of Physical and Mental Health

Life is made up of many components, and two of the most critical aspects are physical and mental health. It is challenging to have a healthy and balanced life without both. Focus on one at the expense of the other can be detrimental to one’s wellbeing. However, as we tell people at our Denver mental health center, with a little time and effort, you can improve both essential components.

Strategies for Staying Physically Healthy

Taking care of your body delivers a range of benefits, from fewer aches and pains to reduced risk of disease, to an increased energy level. Below are five things you can do to treat your body right.

  • Get regular aerobic physical activity. Some people have a negative opinion of “exercise” for one reason or another. However, you don’t have to run five miles a day or do hours of yoga or Pilates every week to improve your physical health. Just taking a brisk 20-minute walk daily can make a difference.
  • Eat a balanced diet. What and how much you eat has a major impact on your health. Fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish and whole grains are good for you. Sugar, processed foods and refined carbohydrates are not. And, all foods should be consumed in moderation.
  • Stay hydrated. Not only does your body need water to function properly, but staying hydrated can also boost your metabolism and help you maintain a healthy weight.
  • Quit (or don’t start) smoking. It’s not easy to quit smoking, but there are counseling programs and medication that can help. If quitting cold-turkey feels impossible, start small by smoking one less cigarette a day.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Being tired isn’t the only consequence of getting inadequate sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause everything from cognitive impairment to hormone problems and weight gain.

Tips for Maintaining Good Mental Health

Most people know that there are actions you can take to improve your physical health. However, many are surprised to learn that the same is true of mental health. Too often we assume that our mood and outlook on life simply fluctuate and there is nothing we can do about it. On the contrary, there are many steps you can take to help achieve and maintain a state of wellbeing. Some of the most effective are listed below.

  • Practice living “in the moment.” In our busy lives, it is easy to think about anything other than what we are doing in the present. It can be a tremendous stress reliever to learn to practice “mindfulness.” That means when you are washing your hands, focus on the simple pleasures of washing your hands, like the coolness of the water running through your fingers and the smell of the soap, When taking a bite of a sandwich, focus on the freshness of the ingredients and how the flavors blend together. Learning mindfulness requires some work to make this a habit, but the payoff is significant.
  • Create and maintain positive relationships. The connections we have with our family members, friends, coworkers and others in our life are crucial to our mental health. It is important to invest time and effort in ensuring they stay strong.
  • Keep track of what you’re grateful for. Even in the toughest of times, there are things we can be thankful for. Making a mental note of them (or better yet, recording them in a gratitude journal) on a regular basis can keep you focused on the positive.
  • Do something nice for someone. Even the smallest acts of kindness can deliver big mental and emotional benefits, both to the recipient and to you.
  • Think positive thoughts about yourself. How you think about yourself affects how you feel about yourself, and that affects your sense of confidence and overall perspective within the world. Reminding yourself regularly that you have many positive qualities and avoiding comparison to others, helps build a solid foundation for your mental and emotional health.

Important Resources from a Denver Mental Health Clinic

The strategies above can be very useful, but when you need expert insight into mental health challenges, our team at Community Reach Center can help. Visit communityreachcenter.org or call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for more information about our services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

What Kids Need to Know About Bullying From a Leading Mental Health Clinic

Kid with braces smiling

There was a time when being bullied was considered a rite of passage some children simply had to endure. The prevailing thinking was that they would “get over it” and it might even “toughen them up.” Fortunately, parents, schools and the U.S. government now have a more proactive view of addressing this behavior, which can be very painful for the victims and leave lasting emotional scars. That awareness is reflected in a number of weeks - or month-long, anti-bullying observations, typically occurring in the fall as children return to school. At our mental health clinic, we encourage parents to learn more about what can be done to prevent bullying.

Tips for Standing Up to a Bully

While teachers, parents and adults, in general, have an obligation to take action when they become aware of bullying, it is also helpful for children to know how to handle a bully on their own. Below are some strategies children can use to stop a bully.

  • Find supportive peers. If a school has a bully, it is likely that there are multiple victims. By supporting, and getting support from, those students and others, a child can give a bully second thoughts about continuing threatening behavior.
  • Talk to adults. Bullying behavior that seems obvious to victims may not be immediately detected by parents and teachers. Children should know that telling adults about bullying isn’t “tattling” but is instead speaking up about a dangerous behavior and that doing so may help keep other children from being bullied.
  • Take action right away. The longer a child submits to bullying, the more empowered the bully will feel and the more aggressive their actions are likely to be. If a child takes a stand immediately, a bully will be more inclined to discontinue the behavior.
  • Be assertive. Often children who are being bullied either put up with the abuse or go the other way and lash out at the bully. Both of those approaches tend to elicit an elevated level of abusive behavior. Assertiveness sits between those two extremes and is the best way for a child to show a bully they won’t be intimidated.
  • Use logic rather than emotion. Bullies tend to feed off the emotions of their victims, whether that is fear or anger. Children who learn to control their emotions and respond to a bully with confidence are less likely to be targeted.
  • Portray confidence through body language. Bullies look for physical signs that their abuse is having an impact on a victim. Children should learn that looking the bully in the eye, speaking slowly and in a calm voice and using the bully’s name are some of the best ways to show that they won’t put up with this behavior.

Bullying and Anxiety

One of the most serious consequences of bullying is that it can create or exacerbate an anxiety disorder in a child. Parents, teachers, coaches and other adults should pay attention to signs that a child — especially one who they suspect might be the victim of a bully — is suffering from anxiety. If a child starts withdrawing from friendships, avoiding activities they previously enjoyed and in general isolating himself or herself from others, it may mean that treatment for anxiety is needed.

Helping Families

Learn more about our services at communityreachcenter.org or by calling us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Making mental health part of everyday conversations

The campaign to reduce mental health stigma is a topic covered often in our blogs, and we proudly report progress is being made. The 2017 Colorado Access Survey of more than 10,000 households reported that stigma as a reason for not receiving services decreased to from 47.7 percent in 2015 to 38 percent. On that good note, we will keep working on it.

In continuing efforts to reduce stigma, the comment is often made that mental health issues are like other health issues. Further, they should be talked about openly to share information and in turn help those experiencing a mental health problem. The idea is that when we can talk about mental health as openly as we talk about a stomach ache, we are making progress. Increasing open conversations about how we feel is a positive shift.

Many parallels exist in considerations between general health and mental health. Interestingly a person with a mental health or a general health challenge does not always know they need help. That is where people need each other and need to watch out for each other. And while we want to talk openly as possible about mental health there is another parallel in privacy to remember. When someone is in treatment, he or she might not want to discuss all the details and symptoms that they are working through with their mental health professional, just as someone with a physical health issue may want some privacy. Compassion and paying attention are always key.

Upping your knowledge

We tend to talk about caring for our general health openly. To stay healthful in the winter, we talk about washing hands. All year round we talk about drinking enough water and eating vegetables. We talk about having enough exercise and the importance of walking. As it turns out all these habits support good mental health. Habits so key to mental health, such as having enough down time and a support system, connect with general health as well, and we should always encourage these conversations.

To counteract stigma and improve the environment, take time to sharpen your mental health knowledge and vocabulary. For example, it is good to know that someone who is clinically depressed would have at least one of two symptoms for at least two weeks: An unusually sad mood or a loss of enjoyment and interest in activities that used to be enjoyable. Statistically, a depressive disorder like this effects about nearly 7 percent of the United States population is a given year, and with professional help this can often be treated before the symptoms worsen.

Much in the way we discuss aches and pains before we make an appointment with a primary care physician, we should discuss: sadness, anxiety, guilt, mood swings, lack of emotional responsiveness, feeling of helpless, hopelessness and irritability in relation to mental health.

There are numerous sources online and in bookstores to learn about mental health, and if you would like to take a Mental Health First Class, which is often free, please visit Mental Health First Aid. The class teaches general mental health signs and symptoms, and how to assist someone who is facing a mental health challenge until help arrives.

Language skills

And as you learn more about mental health, please notice how to show respect to people with mental health concerns. For example, it is better to say, “Emily has schizophrenia,” than “Emily is a schizophrenic.” The label equates the person with the illness and perpetuates a negative label. Emily is a person, not a diagnosis. She has a mental illness, but it doesn’t define who she is as a person. Put the person first no the illness.

Other phrases that are preferred include saying someone is:

  • “being treated for” instead of “is suffering from”
  • “has a mental illness” as opposed to “is mentally ill”
  • “died by suicide” over “committed suicide” (because the word “committed” can be associated with committed a crime)

If you have a concern about yourself or one of your loved ones, we are glad to consult with you at Community Reach Center. To get more information about our metro Denver mental health centers visit communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.


Denver Area Mental Health Center Shares Tips for Explaining Depression to Children

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 16.2 million adults in the U.S. have at least one episode of what is known as major depression each year. That number equates to 6.7 percent of all U.S. adults. In fact, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that depression is one of the leading causes of disability in the U.S.

Not only does the condition affect the adults who have it, depression can also have a significant impact on the children in their life. Historically, depression was a condition that adults struggled to acknowledge and talk about even among themselves, and it was generally kept hidden as much as possible from children. What we now understand is that children sense that there is a problem even if it is not revealed to them. We also know that sharing age-appropriate information on a loved one’s depression can help children better cope with the challenges that the illness presents.

Planning is Important When Talking With Kids About Depression

Children can benefit from being educated about what depression is and how its symptoms affect their loved ones. However, it is important for parents or other caregivers to prepare for that conversation. This includes:

  • Talking with other adults first. If you plan to have a conversation with your child about depression, you should first talk with friends, loved ones or a counselor about what should be shared and how it might be received.
  • Considering who should talk with the child. It is best if information about a loved one’s mental illness comes from someone the child trusts and respects.
  • Thinking about the right place. Where will the child feel comfortable and undistracted having this talk?
  • Choosing the right time. The conversation should take place at a time after which a loved one will be available to answer follow-up questions and provide support.

Strategies for Helping a Child Understand Depression

When you talk with a child about depression, here are some things you can to do ensure that it is a positive and productive conversation:

  • Help them understand that depression is an illness that can be treated. However, explain that the treatment will take time.
  • Emphasize that depression is not something the child or the loved one with the condition should feel guilty or embarrassed about. Many families have been touched in some way by depression, so other people can surely relate.
  • Let them know that depression can cause a person to say or do things they wouldn’t say or do when they are well.
  • Be sure they understand that their loved one’s depression is in no way caused by the child.
  • Encourage them to ask any questions they have about depression and to be open about how the loved one’s condition is making them feel.
  • Reassure them that there are many adults in their life—family members, relatives, counselors at school, etc.—who will support them as their loved one works through the process of getting well.

The First Conversation Should Not be the Last

It often takes time for a child to process what they learn about depression. It is important that you check in with them periodically to see if they have questions or concerns as the implications of their loved one’s diagnosis become clearer to them. It is also important that while you explain the serious nature of depression, you also encourage an upbeat outlook on treatment and focus on the person’s future health and happiness.

How a Mental Health Center Can Help

October is a month in which there are a number of observances to draw attention to the challenges of mental illness, including Mental Illness Awareness Week, National Depression Screening Day and World Mental Health Day. This makes it a great time to talk with a child about depression, as you can point to all the work being done to help adults and kids achieve better mental health.

At Community Reach Center, our trained counselors can help parents and other caregivers understand the best way to have a conversation with a child about depression. We can also participate in that conversation or provide follow-up support. Visit communityreachcenter.org or by call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for more information. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.


The Focus is on Balance During National Work and Family Month in October

The U.S. Senate passed a resolution in 2003 declaring October to be National Work and Family Month. That designation was later reaffirmed by both houses of Congress. The purpose of the resolution is to communicate the importance of flexible work policies that are healthier for workers and their families and to celebrate progress in that direction. As a leading provider of mental health services in the Denver area, Community Reach Center knows how important work-life balance can be and what a positive impact the right balance can have on a person’s well-being.

The Many Benefits of Work-Life Balance

When the idea of work-life balance first gained momentum in the U.S. in the 1980s, many employers thought of it simply as people wanting more time away from the office and felt that it was a concept that would only benefit employees and their families. Since that time, however, it has become clear that greater workplace flexibility is good for workers and their employers. Some of the many benefits include:

  • Improved health and well-being. People who enjoy a good work-life balance have more time and energy for addressing and maintaining good physical, mental and emotional health.
  • Better personal relationships. Having the freedom to organize their work-day in a way that allows them to attend important events they might otherwise have missed improves connectivity with loved ones.
  • Increased work productivity. People who are overworked and experiencing burnout are far less productive than those who are rested, refreshed and ready to tackle their objectives.
  • Lower stress level, absenteeism and medical costs. Employees who frequently or continually work long hours with minimal opportunity to “disconnect” have higher stress levels, which leads to missing work more frequently and higher medical costs for stress-related ailments.
  • Improved brand perception. Employers with policies that respect work-life balance are looked upon more favorably by prospective customers and potential employees.

Ways to Create Better Work-Life Balance

Whether you are an employer considering changes to your work policies or an employee advocating for better work-life balance, here are some ways that better balance can be achieved:

  • Flexible work hours. For some employees, a mid-morning start time would be much better than 8 or 9 a.m. due to family commitments. For others, working from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. is ideal. A little flexibility can go a long way toward helping people achieve the right work-home rhythm.
  • Working from home. Whether a company allows people to work from home every day, occasionally on an as-needed basis or somewhere in between, having a telework policy can be good for employers and their staff members.
  • More time off. Many companies find that when they give employees more time off, there is not the expected drop off in productivity. Instead, the combination of greater focus before scheduled time away and a higher energy level upon return compensates for the decrease in hours worked.
  • Defined boundaries. Laptops and smartphones are wonderful things. However, having them can mean that an employee is never truly “away” from the office. Setting clear policies on how and when employees can be contacted outside the standard work-day can help people get more rest and relaxation when they are off the clock.
  • Family-friendly work events. There are many ways to combine work time and family time such as allowing employees to bring their families on required working retreats.

Mental Health Services: Getting Help When Life is out of Balance

During National Work and Family Month, or any time that life gets stressful, Community Reach Center, your mental health services provider, can help manage mental health challenges. Learn more about our services at communityreachcenter.org or by calling us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Moderation rules alcohol consumption for good health

Drinking alcohol is part of everyday life in many circles.

Occasional happy hours and watching sports with friends often involve having a few alcoholic beverages. Holidays typically include special dinners with wine and so forth.  And enjoying alcohol with meals and beer while watching TV can be commonplace as well.

The U.S. Government dietary guidelines notes that alcohol can be consumed in moderation – defined as one drink a day for woman and two drinks a day for men.  But depending on which study is viewed, even so-called modest drinking can be suspect.

For example, a study of brain scans by researchers in a BMJ (British Medical Journal) report noted that moderate drinking over 30-plus years was associated with degeneration and shrinking of the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in memory and navigation as well as degeneration of the brain’s white matter.

On the other hand, some information suggests potential benefits, such as references to links of moderate red wine consumption to fewer heart attacks. There seems to be indications that antioxidants in red wine, such as flavonoids and a substance called resveratrol, have heart-healthy benefits. However, encouraging people to drink for this reason is not universally accepted, especially without research about prevalence of alcoholism in a person’s family.

Some benchmarks, keeping count

With an understanding that there are varied points of view on alcohol consumption, for purposes of this article, we will look at the topic in the Mental Health First Aid teaching manual, which is used to teach 8-hour Mental Health First Aid courses. The course is often offered by mental health clinics and mental health services.

According to the manual: “At risk drinking for men is more than four drinks per day and no more than 14 drinks per week and for women is no more than 3 drinks per day and no more than 7 per week.” Furthermore, it advises being knowledgeable about types of alcoholic drinks and amounts. A 25-ounce bottle of wine is considered five drinks, because five ounces of wine is one drink. A 22-ounce bottle of beer is considered two drinks, and 3 ounces of liquor that is considered 40 percent is 2 drinks. And beware, when drinks are topped off now and then, the ounce count can be significantly higher than realized.

Along with this information, the manual warns that 75 percent of people who develop substance use disorder (SUD) do so by age 27, and notes that alcohol use disorders are almost three times as common as drug use disorders. With this information in mind, it is a good idea to monitor alcohol levels as one begins to enter the adult world of drinking and, of course, at any age when drinking habits become elevated.

When is help needed

When the ability to function appropriately and carry on life’s responsibilities lapses, it may be time for intervention. The Rapid Alcohol Problems Screen (RAPS4) is one common screening measure.

The screen consists of four questions:

  • During the last year, have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking?
  • During the last year, has a friend or family member ever told you about things you said or did while drinking that you could not remember?
  • During the last year, have you failed to do what was normally expected from you because of drinking?
  • Do you sometimes take a drink in the morning when you first get up?

A yes to at least one of these questions suggest that alcohol consumption has become harmful to the person’s physical and mental health.

With treatment there are many options, such as individual and group counseling, inpatient and residential treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, partial hospital programs, case or care management, MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment), IRT (Intensive Residential Treatment), recovery support services, 12-step fellowship and peer supports. And keep in mind, it sometimes takes more than one attempt for those experiencing alcoholism to secure a road to recovery.

Moderation mode

Practice moderation, but also know that for some people abstinence from alcohol is the path to a healthful lifestyle. If you have a substance use disorder (SUD) or mental health concern about yourself or one of your loved ones, we are glad to consult with you. To get more information about our metro Denver mental health centers visit communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Watching for suicide warning signs


If you notice someone struggling, it’s important to be aware of suicide warning signs. As it happens, showing concern and suggesting a friend or loved one talk to a mental health professional can sometimes be all that is necessary for someone to secure the help they need.

Professional help is very important because suicide can be an outcome of treatable mental health disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa.

Oftentimes stress and health issues can converge to make a person feel overwhelmed and hopeless. When people feel this way for extended periods of time it can cause depression, which is often associated with suicide. Let’s consider some suicide warning signs.  

Some warning signs

A change in behavior can be triggered by a loss or a painful event. The intensity of a grieving process usually subsides over time, but when it does not, there is cause for concern. Regardless of the triggers, there are a variety of warning signs listed in the Mental Health First Aid manual. They include when someone is:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill himself or herself
  • Looking for ways to kill himself or herself, seeking access to pills, weapons, or other means.
  • Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide.
  • Expressing hopelessness.
  • Feeling rage or anger, seeking revenge.
  • Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking.
  • Feeling trapped, like there was no way out.
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use.
  • Withdrawing from friends, family or society
  • Experiencing anxiety or agitation, being unable to sleep, or sleeping all the time.
  • Undergoing dramatic changes in mood.
  • Feeling no reason for living, no sense of purpose in life.

The Mental Health First Aid manual notes that people may have one or many of these signs and may show signs that are not listed.

Health and environmental factors

Health factors have a significant impact. Extended serious physical health conditions including pain and traumatic brain injury can contribute to depression. The loss of the ability to engage in activities a person enjoyed prior to becoming ill can be difficult.  Health problems related to substance-use disorders contribute to stress and suicidal ideation.

Environmental factors should be considered with warning signs. Eventualities, such divorce, financial challenges or other losses, all contribute to stress. Prolonged stress from relationships, unemployment and harassment can all contribute to the development of depression. And any environment where basic needs are not being met can contribute to stress and depression, which can lead to thoughts of suicide.

Reducing stress

Finding ways to reduce stress is key to good mental health overall. If you are concerned about someone you know, encourage them to do things that are pleasurable from reading to gardening. Eat healthful well-balanced diets. Exercise. In fact, exercising with a partner is often very effective.

Reaching out

Colorado Crisis Services introduces its website as a place to go “when you are not sure where to go” and provides excellent resources. Also consider visiting Community Reach Center if you are interested in learning more about risk factors for suicide and how to intervene, sign up for a Mental Health First Aid course. If you have a mental health concern about yourself or a loved one, we are glad to consult with you. To get more information about our metro Denver mental health centers visit communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.