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Rocky Mountain States Lead in Suicide Rates. This Town Fights Back

Rocky Mountain States Lead in Suicide Rates
Haselden Construction

Bode Miller’s film “Paradise Paradox” and Vail Health‘s new initiatives are shining a light on struggles and solutions for mental health.

This spring, Colorado’s Winter Park Resort hosted a banked slalom event, as they have for the last three years, in memory of local snowboarder Ben Lynch. Known by his friends and colleagues as a talented, fun-loving, and, at times, a daredevil, Lynch died by suicide in April 2021.

While Lynch’s story is somber but unfortunately not explicitly uncommon in mountain towns. Factors like high cost of living, quiet shoulder seasons, massive wealth gaps, and party culture can all chip away at the mental well-being of residents, Vail Health President and CEO Will Cook and Executive Director of Vail Health Behavioral Health Chris Lindley explains.

The idea that mountain towns can both be a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, as well as a toxic cauldron for depression, anxiety, suicide, and other mental health conditions, is the sole focus of Bode Miller’s latest film, “Paradise Paradox.”

Finding community is a central theme in “Paradise Paradox,” and one of the major focuses the Vail Health Behavioral Health team has implemented in its care tactics.

“The film has done a really nice job of telling stories and getting people re-engaged and aware of what’s going on, says Lindley. Further backing the point, Cook felt encouraged by the education and enlightening the film has added.

“We’re continuing to see more patients, and it’s great because it’s killing the stigma,” Cook says. “The film shows everyday folks in the community that they live and relate with and they’re talking about mental health, seeking care, and getting services.”

And while no solution can come quickly enough, Vail Health is stepping up and breaking ground to help better the lives of its community members. Of course, Vail Health’s new Precourt Healing Center, which broke ground in the Fall of 2022, was not the result of Miller’s film. In fact, like many projects, it began as a grassroots effort in 2017. The Precourt Healing Center will open in the spring of 2025 with revolutionary care and resources that are usually only offered in the front country.

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