It doesn’t distinguish between the rich and poor, the young and old, the educated and uneducated. It can be very hard to detect, yet it can cause suicidal thoughts in nearly one out of four children in middle school; increase emergency room visits by more than 460 percent, and is responsible for at least one suicide attempt every day. Those are just a few of the ways behavioral health issues have impacted life in Vail Valley.
Behavioral health matters because it affects the entire community! It claims lives; tears families apart; increases substance abuse; and reduces productivity, which costs taxpayers more in the long term.
Behavioral Health Issues on the Rise
If you haven’t personally or directly experienced behavioral health issues you may not give it much thought, yet behavioral health issues have been escalating in the area for several years, reaching a crisis level and leaving devastation in its path. There’s a good chance that people in your life—people you work with, go to school with, socialize with—are grappling with behavioral health issues and working hard to hide them.
Behavioral health matters because it was responsible for taking the lives of 11 people in 2019. And those are just statistics, a measurement tool, but this is about people and the loss of life. And those statistics don’t even begin to take into account the shattered lives of loved ones left behind.
Behavioral Health in Vail Valley and Eagle County
Eagle County, with a population of about 55,000, has a rate of about 30 suicide deaths per 100,000 residents—higher than the nation’s worst rate of 28.9 per 100,000 in Montana, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Behavioral health matters because it too often goes undiagnosed and untreated due to stigma, ignorance and the refusal to put behavioral health on par with physical illness. In a mountain resort area like the Vail Valley, the problem can be further exacerbated by a culture that expects people to be relentlessly cheerful; celebrates personal toughness, that frowns upon sharing and addressing feelings, and has a massive disparity between the wealthy and the working class.
It Takes A Valley
Behavioral health matters because we have the power to band together as a community to take actions that change and even save lives. Multiple organizations across the valley are raising much-needed funds for provider access and capacity, prevention and education, crisis response and transition services and school-based services.
Partnerships have increased the number of available behavioral health providers and services; integrated behavioral health services into traditional healthcare practices; and expanded school-based services to include behavioral health counselors in the schools. Those changes have already made a huge difference to the people living with behavioral health issues in the Eagle River Valley, but there’s much more that needs to be done.
As our It Takes A Valley: Transforming Behavioral Health campaign suggests, it will take the combined efforts of everyone, not just healthcare professionals and government officials, as well as funding, to improve the situation. We need everyone’s support to remove barriers to resources and services and to increase awareness to erode the stigma associated with seeking help. Please contribute to help make a difference in the lives of your friends, associates, neighbors and family members. You may even save a life!