Gallagher: Hope is just a phone call away |

Gallagher: Hope is just a phone call away

R.J. Gallagher Jr.

“When you’re young and healthy you can plan on Monday to commit suicide, and by Wednesday you’re laughing again.” — Marilyn Monroe

There has been a lot of attention paid to the serious issue of suicide over the past few weeks. A well-known and loved Aspen Times editor made the ultimate decision, and the result was an increased conversation on a subject that is historically avoided by much of society.

There are very few things that can be viewed as a positive when such a tragedy occurs. But I have always lived my life as a glass-half-full kind of person. So in my usual attempt to find the bright side from the dark side, I have come to the conclusion that increased dialogue and recognition of the issue is where the positive lives.

If you have called the Roaring Fork Valley home for any length of time, you probably have heard about the suicide-rate statistics for our patch of paradise. There are all kinds of ways to slice and dice statistics, so the best way for me to understand the severity of our local situation is to make it simple for stupid me to understand. So for my comprehension, I have summed those statistical numbers up in sports-related lingo: “We’re No. 1!” Not a good thing.

I am as far from an expert as there can be on this subject, but what I do know is that when it comes to all things that are unhealthy or harmful for you as a person, the management of such issues begins with recognition, understanding and prevention of the related issues. And that’s where the discovery of support systems comes into play.

Our valley has a decent support system in place. One of the finest is the Aspen Hope Center. The Aspen Hope Center was created in an effort to fill the unmet needs of individuals in emotional crisis in the Roaring Fork Valley. Its mission is to extend a beacon of hope to those in emotional crisis and offer a continuum of comprehensive care while steadfastly working to decrease the stigma of mental illness through expert clinical care, public education, community collaboration and outreach. In layman’s terms, the Aspen Hope Center is the place to go when someone is not sure such a place exists.

I know that when I have to make important decisions, I tend to take every minute I can and typically procrastinate for as long as I can. That process can work for most decisions, but when it comes to suicide, I think that type of decision-making process might prove to be a day late and a dollar short. It seems to me that the sooner someone engages into a relationship with an organization like the Hope Center, the better.

The Aspen Hope Center specializes in crisis intervention and prevention. Each of its core programs and collaborations focuses on assisting each individual in crisis or helping to reduce the incidence of a crisis arising. Or, as my mother used to say, prevention is the best medicine.

The staff members employed at the Aspen Hope Center have a wealth of knowledge and years of experience in the world of mental health and crisis. They are committed to employing only the highest-quality professionals so that their services can produce the best outcomes. The Hope Center also offers bilingual case management and crisis translation.

As I did research for this column, one that I really did not want to write, I found the process to be a bit daunting for me. But when you break the Hope Center down to its roots, it really is a support system based on education, outreach and community collaboration with a focus on crisis management. In fact, more than 70 percent of those who finally make the right decision to reach out to the Aspen Hope Center are already in a state of emotional crisis. The Hope Center makes sure that those people are not alone at a very critical time in their lives. In the three years since it opened its doors, the Hope Center has served more than 1,515 clients. Of the clients served, approximately 59 percent are female and 41 percent are male.

The Aspen Hope Center was formed primarily to serve Pitkin County, yet over time, the services provided have begun to expand throughout the valley. Today, approximately 50 percent of the individuals served are from the midvalley and lower-valley areas. The center also provides referral services for anyone who reaches out to it. The Aspen Hope Center has what it calls the 24-hour Hopeline. The line provides confidential communication with an on-call clinician at any time of the day or night, every day of the week. The number is 970-925-5858. So if you are entering into a crisis mode in your life, pick up the phone and make the call. They are there to help.

The Aspen Hope Center has become an incredible valleywide resource. And as with any community-based organization, the entire community benefits when someone supports such an organization with the gift of a donation. All donations are tax-deductible and can be made as a one-time gift or deducted in increments over time. The center’s website is

If you want to give and see Aspen’s first responders take each other on in hockey, then you need to save the date for the fourth annual Hockey for Hope benefit at the Aspen Ice Garden at 5 p.m. on March 1. General admission is $10, and VIP tickets are available. Please call 970-925-5858 for more information.

When it comes to suicide, it will be a perfect world when Marilyn Monroe’s perception becomes reality and our society shares the last laugh together.

R.J. Gallagher Jr. is a three-decade resident of the Roaring Fork Valley community. He has proudly served on numerous nonprofit boards, including the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, the Aspen Community Foundation and Komen Aspen. His firm Forte International is a supporter of local philanthropy that makes a difference on a global level. “Philantopia” is a monthly column in The Aspen Times focused on philanthropy and community involvement. R.J.’s always open for ideas. You can reach out to him at


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