Meet Jill Atkinson, a Colorado-based clinical psychologist who works to serve the mentally ill and underserved population. 

Jill Atkinson is a true embodiment of love, care, and perseverance, having dedicated her life to serving patients suffering from chronic mental illness. Atkinson, a clinical psychologist by trade, earned her Ph.D. with the same goal in mind. She has held leadership positions in nonprofits her entire life and continues to do so. She uses her experience and skills to help create systems of care that are welcoming, accessible, and high quality for people with mental illnesses. She notes that many people can’t afford health care and don’t have the means to right treatments. She wants to ensure that they have access to quality care, in a space where they are not judged, and get support for their needs to be met. 

Atkinson has been living in Colorado for 11 years now, along with her husband. She works for a nonprofit that provides for 20K people a year. She is also active in working with state-level organizations to help from a systemic perspective. Together they are focused on physical, mental, and spiritual health, as well as assisting patients in obtaining safe and stable housing, as well as affordable and nutritious food. She is working to create a haven for families, children, and seniors, where they can live comfortably. They prioritize quality over quantity. Their mission also includes assisting people in securing employment, housing, and health care.

At 45, Atkinson was diagnosed with Scleroderma, an autoimmune disease that involves the hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues. It affects all her internal functions and doesn’t have a cure as yet. It has been painful for her, but this hasn’t stopped her from looking out for others. Someone once asked her why she doesn’t wait until she feels better. To which she said, “if I waited until I felt better, I’d never get anything done. That’s the deal when you have a chronic illness, you don’t feel better ever, you get to choose every single day to get up and engage and move forward anyway or you wait until you feel better. And I’m not gonna wait until I feel better because life will pass me by and I don’t have that much life left.” There’s a lot she wants to do and accepts that she may not have so much time and therefore doesn’t have any to waste. 

When it comes to personal health and disease this serious, many people may put work on hold to focus on themselves. Jill, on the other hand, has never given this a second thought and is dedicated to the well-being of others whose future depends on her. Jill has bad days, and when she does, she takes a break. She slows down for a moment to catch her breath. This is not giving up, but rather take good care of herself to rejuvenate and re-emerge stronger. She wishes to continue working and serving as long as possible.

Atkinson lives about 30 miles from Rocky Mountain National Park, and despite her illness, she is there every weekend to hike, backpack, rock climb, or ice climb. She has a farm with chickens, dogs, and bees, and she often sells the eggs and bees. Atkinson has no regrets in life and believes she is living it to the fullest. She is content with what she has and has no intention of giving up. There are days when she hurts, swells, and her eyes are affected, but she knows that putting them on the list of things that don’t work will make her feel even worse. And this is what keeps her going.