Larry and Marsha Ritterband have been involved in the mental health community for more than three decades, but they've never seen anything quite like this in Colorado Springs.
"The one thing I would stress is, collaboration is beginning to happen in our community," Larry says.
Larry, a retired financial analyst and executive director, and Marsha, a retired social worker, first became interested in mental illness when Marsha experienced symptoms in 1980. They sought help and began participating in support groups. They were early supporters of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance of Colorado Springs, founded in 1994, and remain avid volunteers.
Over the years, they say, events have come and gone. Sporadic efforts to bring the local mental health community together for those events — to present a united front — have largely failed.
Until this year. While planning DBSA's annual event, "Faces of Recovery," the Ritterbands decided again to reach out to the community. They didn't expect much response. To their great surprise, 22 agencies accepted invitations to present at the event, and the Ritterbands rebranded their effort as the region's first "mental health fair."
"People are stepping up," Marsha says.
That event and more are planned for May, which is mental health month. Here's a rundown:
• May 3: Blame Sally, an all-woman Americana band, will play Stargazers Theatre and Event Center, 10 S. Parkside Drive, at 7 p.m. as a benefit for AspenPointe's Creative Expressions program. Tickets are $15. Call 476-2200, check stargazerstheatre.com/blame-sally, or see 7 Days to Live, p. 24, to learn more.
• May 5: The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance will host the Faces of Recovery/Mental Health Fair at its office at 2132 E. Bijou St. (enter through the back). The event includes nearly two dozen exhibitors from different mental health groups and agencies, personal stories from those who have lived with mental illness, snacks and refreshments, and a silent auction. The event is free, but donations are encouraged to cover costs.
• May 10: The Colorado Springs chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness will host its second annual community breakfast starting at 7 a.m. at the Antlers Hilton, 4 S. Cascade Ave. The free event includes breakfast, music from the Mitguards and Colorado College's coed a capella group, as well as the feature event "Rewriting the Story: In Our Own Words," a video featuring people helped by NAMI. Call 473-8477 or visit namicoloradosprings.org/register-for-classes/sign-up. RSVPs must be received by May 4.
• May 22: AspenPointe's annual "Spotlight on Stigma: Stories of Hope" aims to reduce the stigma of mental illness through the telling of real-life stories. Presenters like Jennifer Given and Sally McDermitt, also featured in our story, will tell of their experiences and share art and poetry. The event, located at CC's Cornerstone Arts Center, 825 N. Cascade Ave., starts at 5 p.m., with presentations beginning at 6. The cost is $5. Call 572-6100 or visit aspenpointe.org and click on "Calendar of events" for more.
• May 29-30: The Suicide Prevention Partnership is offering a two-day class on applied suicide intervention skills. The training runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both days at Community Church of the Rockies, 4777 N. Academy Blvd. The cost is $40, and participants should bring a sack lunch. Register at pikespeaksuicideprevention.org.