Guest column: Support available for mental health

Christina King
Guest column

“Why are ski towns seeing more suicides?” was a question spun from a National Geographic article last week. Over 20 messages from friends and peers flooded my inbox. The factual and informative article shared a story to the world that our valley knows all too well, that “suicides in Aspen … (are) three times the country’s mean rate.”

As a private clinician and director of Aspen Strong, I felt this article fueled ignition to talk, leaving our valley with the opportunity to keep the conversation going and bring awareness of the fruitful resources that do exist.

Earlier that week, I was contacted by a mother, living in a major city, skeptical of the mental-health resources in the Aspen area. She didn’t feel her adult child would have the proper, sustained support to address clinical issues as her city resources would. I confidently shared my expertise and the valley’s. As I diligently work hard to connect mental-health and addiction resources through Aspen Strong, I continue to learn and be impressed by the multitude of resources. Our community is very capable of supporting many mental-health needs that exist. I won’t deny our valley’s necessity to continually address areas for ancillary or augmented support. Nonetheless, I firmly believe that suicide does not have to be our valley’s epidemic!

Aspen Strong was put in place for just this reason. Where are the resources? How do I access them? How do I afford care? How do I evaluate myself or a loved one who may be in need of help? How does our community identify and fill in the gaps? The answers are at your fingertips at Aspen Strong’s website is a place you can access an online directory of mental-health professionals or organizations to connect with, crisis agencies available 24/7, support groups to attend, mental-health screenings and assistance to ease some of the financial hardship.

Aspen Strong’s efforts and those of the many mental-health supports in our valley are here to help.

Even more telling is that our community is reaching out. Statistics for 2016 state that 4,300 searches through Psychology Today for therapists have been made in the 81611 area alone. Aspen Strong has approximately 4,000 searches to its directory — currently encompassing 64 providers or agencies from Aspen to Parachute. Additionally, in 2015, Aspen Strong screened 286 community members for mental health through our online, anonymous screening initiative. In 2016, Aspen Strong partnered with the Valley Health Alliance, the city of Aspen, The Aspen Clinic, Mountain Family Health and Roaring Fork Neurology to boost our efforts. Together, we have screened more than 500 individuals this year. The numbers continue to increase.

As the article reads, “In order to stem this terrible tide, we must bring the issue out from the dark and into the light. In doing so, we should strive to understand how we can support the most vulnerable individuals in our communities.” Just like the aspen groves we are named for, our strength comes from our connections. Let’s show the world what it means to be Aspen strong by connecting people with support and people who care!

Christina M. King is a licensed professional counselor and co-founder of Aspen Strong, a Roaring Fork Valley foundation that supports mental-health awareness and works to reduce the stigma of mental health.


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