Thursday, July 26, 2007

First lady steps up for mentally ill

From the (use this link)

First lady steps up for mentally ill
By Diane Carman
Denver Post Staff Columnist
Article Last Updated: 07/25/2007 10:32:33 PM MDT

Jeannie Ritter still breaks into a sweat when the spotlight shines her way. Seven months after her husband took office as governor, the former teacher and mother of four gets a case of nerves every time she steps before a microphone.

She does it anyway.

"I have a great opportunity, and if I don't take advantage of it, it would be a huge loss," she said. So she musters her courage and faces audiences that she said have been "lovely and very forgiving."

For a vast community of people who feel neglected by the state that ranks 49th in mental-health-care funding, it's not just being polite. She's their hero.

Last week when a man in the throes of a delusional episode brandished a gun outside her husband's office, Ritter was on the road in northwestern Colorado, meeting with people who struggle to deliver mental-health services with severely limited resources. When she heard what happened at the Capitol, she canceled an appearance in Meeker to be with her family.

"It was hugely ironic, wasn't it," she said. "It made the discussions that are already poignant even more so."

For Ritter and other advocates for mental-health care, the incident also presented a challenge. A lingering prejudice against the mentally ill stems from the impression that they are prone to violence. In fact, statistics from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill show they are 2 1/2 times more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.

It's just one obstacle.

The biggest hurdle, Ritter said, is to help people overcome the stigma that prevents them from seeking treatment.

"We're talking about a huge percentage of people who can be reached. There are resources" in schools and workplaces, she said, "if only they would use them."

Ritter told a story she heard about two ranchers who came into a Southeast Mental Health Services clinic with a folded copy of a poster in their pockets. Both were contemplating suicide and decided to seek help after they saw the picture of a local rancher on a poster for the mental- health clinic.

Produced under a grant from The Colorado Trust, it showed rancher and former County Commissioner Harry Doak leaning against a fence.

Over the years, Doak had known ranchers who took their lives when economic or family pressures overwhelmed them, so he volunteered to be the face of rural mental-health outreach.

"That guy should be championed," Ritter said.

While services often are more accessible in urban areas, tragedies here still are all too common. Ritter cited the suicide of Larry Manzanares last month as an example.

"We lost a good judge in our community," she said. "It's heartbreaking, but it's also another opportunity to raise awareness and push the heartache to the forefront."

Lives can be saved, she said.

"There are great services; the difficulty is getting people to use them. Why aren't we nudging each other more?"

Ritter is cautious about advocating legislative initiatives or government action.

"I'm not throwing words like 'policy' around," she said.

But she is working to get mental-health professionals, business leaders, politicians, law enforcement officers and health care advocates in the same room to exchange ideas and encourage one another to take action.

"At some point, something needs to be done with this information," she said. "It's not just a first-lady thing."

For now, though, she's satisfied with encouraging the dialogue.

On Saturday, Ritter will overcome her anxiety once more and take the podium to speak at a fundraiser for the Carson J. Spencer Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to suicide prevention and treatment for the mentally ill. (For information, call 303-458-4323 or go to

She'll likely tell the story of a friend she's known for years who only recently revealed that her father took his own life. The memory had been buried deep in her psyche, a secret kept from almost everyone close to her.

"It's something we don't exchange information about," Ritter said. "But survivors need to tell their stories.

"If we can just listen and keep linking arms, we can make a difference."

Diane Carman's column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Reach her at 303-954-1489 or

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Rising Star Scholarship Award Recipient Trent Lovell

With funding coming from Beacon Risk Strategies, the company co-founded by Carson, the Carson J Spencer Foundation (CJSF), in partnership with the Junior Achievement Rocky Mountain (JARM) organization, awarded its first college scholarship to Denver high school Senior Trenton ("Trent") Lovell .
Trent will receive a $4000 a year scholarship from CJSF and JARM for each of the next four years at Denver University.

It was one of Carson's wishes to sponsor young people with such an award. The Carson J Spencer "Rising Star" Scholarship considers entrepreneurial spirit, motivation, and creativity in business and community as it's primary selection criteria.

Chosen from a group of over 60 extremely talented applicants, Trent impressed us with his social entrepreneurship founding "B.I.O.N.I.C." (Believe It Or Not I Care) which now involves 180 people from 9 elementary schools. BIONIC brings outreach services to children who are missing school due to sickness. They provide homework, tutoring and support to help boost spirits to keep the students functioning at their class level.

Trent also has an outstanding academic record, captained the varsity basketball team, was a "Class Senator" for the Student Government. and shows much promise as a future business leader and entrepreneur.

Please come to the Denver Benefit Auction Evening and meet this wonderful young man.

Music to Save Lives - Troy Gray Concert at Shining Lights of Hope Event

Music to Save Lives: Concert to Benefit Suicide Prevention

Denver –July 24, 2007– “Music saved my life,” says Troy Gray, a Colorado Nuevo flamenco guitarist with a story to tell. Troy was only 19 years old when he attempted suicide after experiencing unbearable psychological trauma. “I would escape behind doors for hours and play guitar. It helped me express the anger, the sadness, the emotions.”

Now almost twenty years later, he is a musician with a cause. His new CD released this year is entitled, “A New Beginning” and it celebrates his recovery through his music.

All proceeds from Troy’s concert will benefit the Carson J Spencer Foundation, a nonprofit sustaining a passion for life through innovative mental health promotion programs. The concert is open to the public and will be held at the Wynkoop Brewing Company (1634 18th Street, Denver) on July 28th at 8:00pm ($10 pre-register on or $15 at the door; free to students with valid ID).
The concert follows a Benefit Auction Evening featuring Colorado’s First Lady Jeannie Ritter (5:00-8:00pm, also at the Wynkoop).

“This is not your typical mental health awareness event,” says Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas, executive director of the Carson J Spencer Foundation who is a psychologist and survivor of her brother’s suicide. “Troy’s story is inspirational, and his music rocks. Attendees will have a memorable, meaningful and fun time.”
For more information, please call Sally Spencer-Thomas 303-458-4323 or visit

About the Carson J Spencer Foundation: Sustaining a Passion for Life
The Carson J Spencer Foundation, a non-profit organization, was founded in April 2005 following the suicide of Carson J. Spencer. The Carson J Spencer Foundation helps people live their best lives by shining a light of hope and offering guidance during difficult times. The Carson J Spencer Foundation promotes entrepreneurial ideals through venture philanthropy, innovative mental health programming/advocacy and scholarships to individuals showing entrepreneurial promise.