Local Spotlight: Marc Fernandes and Erik DaRosa share stories of surviving and thriving through mental health series
Podcast co-hosts aim to make mental health a ‘kitchen table conversation’
Marc Fernandes and Erik DaRosa want to make mental health a “kitchen table conversation” — one that focuses on “destigmatizing without desentizing,” DaRosa said.
“We want to normalize the discussion about it but not trivialize it,” Fernandes said.
That ethos is the driving mentality behind “From Survivor to Thriver,” a podcast that the two Snowmass Village locals and ski instructors launched as a platform to share personal stories about mental health while fostering a community that feels more comfortable starting and having those conversations every day.
The podcast hatched, fittingly, in Fernandes’ kitchen. DaRosa had returned from an offseason vacation late last fall with the realization that he never mourned the loss of the 2019-20 ski season that ended so abruptly with pandemic closures back in March 2020.
With so much uncertainty still ahead at the time, he said he found himself “furiously scribbling” his own mental health story — one that he can trace back to growing up with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder, and one that he has addressed in part through therapy, medication and time spent outdoors.
“If I was feeling all of these effects, and my own mental health was kind of teetering just a bit again, and I had all the tools and the resources, I could only imagine for not only people here in the valley but the hundreds of millions of people around the world who were struggling with mental health issues,” DaRosa said.
“That’s when I approached Marc and said, I think we both have our own personal stories and journeys,” he added. “We’ve been open about it, and it’s time that we speak up and speak out.”
Episode one, “It’s perfectly OK to not be OK,” hit platforms in late January with DaRosa’s story launching the series. Since then, the two have recorded nearly three dozen episodes, 28 of which are already available for a listen on streaming platforms.
What began as what DaRosa called his “ode to a ski season lost” has become a series wide-ranging in scope, with a new guest in each episode. The aim is accessibility, community and empathy, a combination that the two Snowmass Village locals hope will help listeners feel comfortable sharing their own stories and seeking help.
“I’ve realized one of the most important things for people when they take that first step — whether it’s picking up a phone, calling a friend or a family member or a loved one, the most difficult one is always picking up the phone and calling a therapist who’s a complete stranger for the first time — it’s often because somehow they’ve realized that what they’re experiencing, they’re not alone,” DaRosa said.
The podcast hasn’t quite reached hundreds of millions yet, though their Facebook page has garnered more than 10,000 followers; even so, it’s less about the quantity of the impact than the quality for the show’s co-hosts.
“All the statistics and all the data, it doesn’t matter,” DaRosa said, “because if one person tunes in, and they listen to an episode, and it makes a difference, and it makes an impact, and its word for word saves a life, that’s all that matters, and that’s what’s really stuck in my head.”
Fernandes calls it the “You too” movement: one in which the co-host’s willingness to open up has encouraged others to do the same.
“I have to give Eric a ton of credit for this: It really is this idea of like, we can all survive with anything, but to truly thrive, you have to find ways to not only heal yourself but to set yourself up to be able to encounter any of these other things that are going to continue happening in life and not let them break you back down,” Fernandes said.
If the podcast can help listeners find their own ways to heal — and perhaps open up about their mental health — then DaRosa and Fernandes see it as a win.
“It’s really just an additional resource, and if it’s a resource that actually allows people to feel comfortable stepping into other resources, that makes us even prouder,” DaRosa said.
The Aspen Ambulance District seeks a property-tax increase to keep up its level of service, and the Pitkin County commissioners showed initial willingness this week to put the question on the Nov. 8 ballot.
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