“It focuses more on getting people more of what they do want rather than what they don’t. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong and not working in their life, now we’re switching to a focus on what is working and their strengths.”
— Gina Toothaker, LPC CAC III and program director for Craig Mental Health, about the role of positive psychology in treating mental illness
Colorado West Mental Health is subtly shifting its focus.
With a new emphasis on positive psychology and armed with new tools and resources for Craig residents, Colorado West is ready to approach mental health from a new angle, Gina Toothaker said.
“Positive psychology is a type of therapy that’s been around a little while. It’s very strength based,” said Toothaker, a licensed professional counselor, certified addictions counselor level 3 and program director for Craig Mental Health. “It focuses more on getting people more of what they do want rather than what they don’t. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong and not working in their life, now we’re switching to a focus on what is working and their strengths.”
Toothaker said the organization always is looking to expand practices, but the new practices it tries are evidence based with therapies, techniques and research to back them and prove they work.
Toothaker said she liked positive psychology because it can be used with all age levels, adults and kids alike.
Something as simple as expressing gratitude, Toothaker said, can go a long way in combating mental health issues.
“People who practice gratitude, like identifying three things they’re grateful for each day, research indicates it actually helps alleviate depression,” Toothaker said.
Although the holidays generally bring merriment and cheer, Toothaker said it can also be one of the more difficult times of the year for people.
“Holidays can magnify a loss, make a person feel more lonely than normal, or magnify financial struggles," she said. "People have unrealistic expectations about the holidays. People get set up to think the holiday’s are supposed to be this Norman Rockwell painting and it often doesn’t work out that way.”
Toothaker added the simple lack of sunshine in winter months can elevate feelings of depression.
But Colorado West has some new tools and resources they’re ready to use in the prevention and treatment of mental illness.
One resource is www.mystrength.com, a website self-described as a health club for your mind.
“It’s a really cool website because it’s user friendly and anyone can go on, sign up and create an account,” Toothaker said. “It’s like a technologically based self help thing for people who like to do things on their own. It’s a pretty cool interactive site.”
The site sends quotes, information and inspirational messages along with offering assessments, exercises and practices for users to participate in. The site can be tailored to any spiritual or religious beliefs, so quotes are geared towards your preferences.
Toothaker said the site requires a pass code for first time users. She said a pass code anyone can use is wellnessweb.
Another website Toothaker said Colorado West is promoting is www.mantherapy.com
Although a little bit controversial, Toothaker said the website is geared specifically towards men and helping them in a way more comfortable to them.
“Dr. Rich Mahogany” leads men through the web site, which offers insight and help that any manly man might need, including humorous information on how long it should take a man to grow a mustache and the lightest weight bowling ball acceptable for a man to use before his man card is revoked and chest hair removed.
It’s 12 pounds, by the way.
Toothaker said historically men have been less likely than women to seek help for mental health issues. But according to the web site, men commit suicide at a much higher rate than women.
Aside from online resources, Colorado West held their first mental health first aid course in Craig and had 24 participants attend the 12-hour course over two days at the safety center.
Toothaker said the course offered information on basic mental health issues, what to look for, how to know if somebody you know or care about is struggling, what to say to someone facing mental health issues, how to listen and how to get help.
“It’s a pretty phenomenal course. I hope to be able to bring more of those there,” Toothaker said. “Every one I’ve ever spoken to about it has thought it was amazing. Most report using the material within a week.”
Toothaker said health care is headed in a direction where overall wellness includes mental health as well as physical wellness, adding the two are interconnected.
“It’s still a pretty big problem in this community, but now we can treat it in a different context,” Toothaker said. “We’re trying to help the community be in more of a preventative mindset.”
Darian Warden can be reached at 875-1793 or firstname.lastname@example.org