Opinion | Scott M. Estill: Let’s work together on mental health
Challenges, Choices, Changes
A kind reader recently suggested to me via a letter to the editor that I “stop spending so much time in front of (my) keyboard and take a hike” to “calm (my) irrational fears.” I thought that was excellent advice (the hike was nice), even though I disagree with the medical advice rendered in that letter: “If you get omicron, congratulations! You will be better soon and now immune.”
Omicron is currently killing about 1,700 Americans every day. While this is about half as bad as it was last year, it is still deadly no matter how you wish to frame the issue. A bit of perspective: It exceeds deaths from all types of cancer (about 1,660 per day). Or perhaps it is better shown by realizing that it is more than all deaths from car accidents (106 per day), gun violence (120 per day), strokes (440 per day), diabetes (280 per day) and Alzheimer’s (370 per day) combined. The virus is not done with us no matter how much we are done with it.
But this is not what today’s rant is about. Like many others fortunate enough to own property in Summit County, I recently received my annual love letter from the county in the form of a notice for my annual property taxes. Not surprisingly, they went up 23%. But instead of complaining about the increase in this column (I actually have no issue paying for the excellent local schools, fire, police, etc.), I wanted to focus on the “Get help now” flyer that was enclosed with the bill.
Printed in English on one side and Spanish on the other, the insert provides truly relevant information on how to obtain mental health services in the county. Given that many Summit County residents do not own their home, they might not have received this notice via another method. It is important that everyone receives this information.
Quite frankly, the mental health of Summit County is not good. In fact, it is quite bad. So bad that the suicide rate in our county (27 per 100,000 people) is almost double the national rate of 14 per 100,000 people. There are many interconnected reasons and speculation for why the rate is dramatically higher here.
According to the University of Colorado, mental illness, social isolation from COVID-19, alcohol and substance use, and increased access to firearms all contribute to this rate. However, the reason is not the point of this column. Nearly all suicide triggers relate to an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and often the utter futility of life.
As the flyer very eloquently points out: It’s OK to not be OK. Yes, it is a problem. But like most other problems, there are solutions. It all starts with recognizing that you have a problem that requires some professional help. If your life is in danger, call 911 immediately. If you are otherwise struggling with your mental health, there are many straightforward ways to get help.
Perhaps start with BuildingHopeSummit.org. It provides many excellent resources, all without having to talk to anyone on the phone. (And yes, I’m aware that readers without any prior history of mental illness would not understand why talking to someone on the phone can be a deal breaker.) Another simple way to get assistance without having to talk to anyone is to communicate by texting “talk” to 38255. There are also methods of seeking help for those who are comfortable talking to someone, whether that be a mental health professional (844-493-8255) or a supportive peer (970-485-6271, Option 2).
With all the divisiveness in our community over vaccines, masks, property rights and whatever might come next, is it possible for us to work together on one issue in 2022? Given the lack of consensus on pretty much anything, may I suggest that helping our community restore its collective mental health is a worthwhile goal for this year?
Mental illness does not wear a red or blue hat. It can find you whether you have a fat bank account or no bank account. It doesn’t care where (or whether) you worship. Let’s put aside our differences, most of which are petty in light of the struggles many in our community suffer with mental illness every day of the year. And if you think you might need help, please seek it sooner rather than later.
Let us resolve to look after one another, even if you disagree with the politics of the guy wearing the MAGA hat at City Market.
Scott M. Estill’s column “Challenges, Choices, Changes” publishes biweekly on Thursdays in the Summit Daily News. Estill is an attorney, author and public speaker who lives in Dillon when not traveling or attending to legal matters in Denver. Contact him at email@example.com.
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