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High Risk At High Altitude

Aspen Public Radio is talking about mental health. The first part of our series focused on the collision of pandemic depression and seasonal depression, but mountain living comes with specific mental health risks that go beyond the winter season. We know our region is prone to issues with mental wellness and higher rates of suicide. When you factor in the news of the last year, all those things can weigh more heavily.

We’re continuing our discussion about mental health, and we’re talking to local experts, therapists and counselors as part of the conversation. But the Aspen Public Radio newsroom 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. 

 

Colorado Crisis Services: 1-844-493-8255 or text TALK to 38225

Alex Hager/Aspen Public Radio News

The Mountain West has some of the highest suicide rates in the United States. Colorado is no exception; the state has been in the top 10 for highest suicide rates in the country since 2009. Ski towns, in particular, have significantly higher rates of suicide than the national average.

Mental health experts have called it the “paradise paradox,” and the University of Colorado’s School of Public Health cites factors ranging from financial instability, geographic isolation, lack of healthcare, easy access to firearms and the transient nature of resort communities as being some of the reasons communities in rural areas across the Mountain West continue to suffer from high suicide rates. In Aspen, that rate is two to three times the national average, according to CU’s School of Public Health.

Dennis Brendel / Unsplash


One way to take care of yourself during the coronavirus pandemic is to stay connected to your loved ones, but what happens when you have a disagreement or a falling out with the people you’re supposed to feel most connected to, and how does that affect your mental health?

Drew Beamer / Unsplash

It may be a new year, but the stresses and challenges from 2020 seem to be trickling into 2021. At the national level, the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by right-wing extremists. Locally, people continue to navigate the financial difficulties that have come along with the ongoing pandemic. It has been widely reported that alcohol has become one of the nation’s key coping mechanisms, with consumption rising sharply among adults.

Photo by Pelle Martin on Unsplash

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.

Kim Zimmer / Aspen School District

For many of us, the ongoing pandemic has impacted our mental health in surprising ways, and this includes young people.

In the latest conversation from our “High Risk At High Altitude" series, Aspen Public Radio talked with local behavioral intervention specialist Sonja Linman about what she’s learned from her work with local kids and their families.

Tim Mossholder / Unsplash

Many people feel like the last several months have completely turned their world upside down. From shutdowns, to civil unrest, to new rules popping up all the time, to a seemingly unending presidential election, people are run down.