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Aspen Public Radio is talking about mental health. We started this discussion with a focus on the collision of pandemic depression and seasonal depression. However, mountain communities have specific mental health issues, including higher rates of suicide, and we're continuing the conversation to examine how we can develop better overall community mental health habits as we navigate through the pandemic and beyond.We’ll be talking with local experts, but the Aspen Public Radio newsroom also wants to hear directly from our listeners. We encourage you to contact us with any questions, comments or stories by emailing news@aspenpublicradio.org and putting "Mental Health Project" in the subject line.

High Risk At High Altitude: How Local Service Industry Workers Are Faring During The Pandemic

Photo by Pelle Martin on Unsplash
Local restaurant and hospitality workers face their own unique challenges even before the pandemic, and formed a mental health support group called “Hospitality Matters” to find ways to support one another.";s:

Back in 2019, licensed clinical social worker and therapist Kathleen Callahan was approached by Lindze Letherman and Quinn Gallagher about starting a mental health support group for hospitality and restaurant workers.

Letherman and Gallagher both work at Hooch, in downtown Aspen, and offered the space as a meeting place for local service industry workers to talk about their unique challenges and support each other. Since the pandemic hit, the group “Hospitality Matters,”hasn’t been meeting in-person, but they’ve continued their meet-ups virtually.

“With Hospitality Matters, a lot of people have hooked up together and they’re developing their own, what we call ‘family pods,’” Callahan explained since the group went online. “They’re not related, but they hang out together so they’re not alone.”

Callahan has kept an open door policy for regular or prospective clients since the pandemic hit. She said figuring out how to stay connected is an important part of developing better mental health habits for Roaring Fork Valley restaurant workers.

“What happens is that they all get together and they work really hard and they’re a family and then we get offseason, and they’re isolated and alone,” said Callahan.

Arts and culture reporter Kirsten Dobroth spoke to Callahan about the importance of destigmatizing asking for help for this important part of the local workforce and population.


Kirsten was born and raised in Massachusetts, and has called Colorado home since 2008. She moved to Vail the day after graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2011. Before relocating to Basalt in 2020, she also spent a year living in one of Aspen’s sister cities, Queenstown, New Zealand.
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