Mental health advocacy nonprofit Building Hope spins off, launches county messaging campaign
Summit County has grappled with soaring suicide rates for years. The local mental health advocacy nonprofit Building Hope was formed in 2016 to build up the mental health infrastructure and outreach in the county. After two years, the organization has grown and expanded its reach into the community, and is introducing a messaging campaign to motivate people to take care of their minds along with their bodies.
Borne out of the tragedies and loss of several prominent locals, Building Hope started as a collaborative program supported by the Summit Foundation and the Family and Intercultural Resource Center to address the county’s lack of mental health resources and infrastructure.
The organization has now grown and spun out into its own independent nonprofit. It has opened its own office space in Frisco, next door to the EVO3 Workspace at the corner of Seventh Avenue and Main Street.
The organization has also hired as its executive director former Breckenridge Town Council member Jennifer McAtamney.
“Currently the board chair of Early Childhood Options, Jen also developed the Tuition Assistance Program for the town of Breckenridge and most recently served as the child care program administrator for the town of Breckenridge,” Building Hope announced in its March newsletter. “Her personal passions, experience and deep connections to the community will make her an asset to the team.”
The organization has also found success with a mental health navigation program it started back in April of last year to help get people lost in the system the help they need. Since the program has been up and running under program administrator Rachel Miller, it has received 235 referrals and is currently working on 55 cases.
Next month, Building Hope will be launching a messaging campaign it has been working on for two years to get the county’s active population thinking differently about mental health.
“What we haven’t done as a community is promote emotional well-being to the extent that we promote physical health, or create a culture that gives people permission to safely talk about mental health challenges,” said Building Hope program manager Betsy Casey. “This campaign is designed to get people thinking and talking about mental health and normalize the importance of emotional well-being as a factor of our physical health.”
The campaign, which focuses on “being imperfect together,” drives home the message that nobody is perfect, and that struggles are universal.
“We are all human,” added Casey. “Struggling or dealing with problems is something we all face throughout life. This campaign is designed to start conversations — encouraging people to not keep quiet when they need support. We are taking the stigma away from being less than perfect.”
More than 32,000 coasters and 5,000 free greeting cards with encouraging, personal messages have been distributed throughout Summit County as part of the campaign.
The coasters read, “It’s okay to not be okay. Life can be hard, listening and caring are easy.”
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office is supporting the campaign by distributing 12,000 of the coasters to bars and restaurants. Coasters have been distributed to nearly two dozen bars throughout Summit County.
“Summit County law enforcement agencies interact daily with so many people in the community,” Sheriff FitzSimons was quoted in a Building Hope press release. “Sometimes those people are struggling and having a bad day. It is in those moments that we have an opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives. This public education campaign is just one more way we can help.”
The campaign’s free greeting cards can be picked up at the Breckenridge Recreation Center, the post office, fire departments, as well as in medical clinics and the human resources departments at Vail Resorts and Breckenridge Grand Vacations.
The cards are also available in an electronic version that can be downloaded and sent to friends from the Building Hope website at BuildingHopeSummit.org. Spanish versions of the cards and e-cards will be available soon.
“We believe these cards are an approachable way to encourage conversations,” Casey said in the release. “There is a common misconception that you have to be a therapist or know all the answers to help someone struggling with a mental health issue. It’s just not true. Actively listening with compassion and without an agenda, validating people’s struggles, sharing your own challenges and letting them know they are not alone — these are relatively simple things you can do to make a huge impact in someone’s life.”
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