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A Paradox in Paradise: Ski Towns See High Rates of Suicide, Mental Health Challenges

mental health resources in Vail

Called “The Paradise Paradox,” a new film explores how party culture, addiction, isolation, loneliness, the high cost of mountain living and inadequate mental health resources in Vail and other ski towns contribute to higher suicide rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the six states with the highest suicide rates in 2021, four were in the Rockies. Wyoming led the list with Montana ranked second, New Mexico fourth and Colorado sixth.

But the film also highlights efforts to improve mental health resources in Vail and the Eagle River Valley.

In 2019, Vail Health committed $160 million over 10 years to attack the problem by improving mental health resources in the county. At the time, patients in crisis had to travel two or more hours to receive in-patient care. Now a 50,000-square-foot, 28-bed in-patient facility is being built in Edwards and is due to open early in 2025. In 2019, there were no fulltime licensed clinical providers in county schools. Now every school has one.

Chris Lindley, chief population health officer at Vail Health, who has been at the forefront of those efforts has been is mostly pleased with the way the film turned out.

Eagle County has rallied to the cause as a widespread community effort attacking the problem on multiple fronts, Lindley stressed.

“This is not one organization, one person, one group leading it,” Lindley said. “It’s local governments, from the county to the towns to the school district, the largest employer groups, multiple non-profit organizations. It’s Vail Health, the hospital system, Colorado Mountain Medical. It’s folks leaning in and identifying behavioral health as a priority, and all of us trusting each other to tackle and work on the issue.”

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