Opinion | Scott M. Estill: A time for reflection
Fifty-one years ago, then-President John Kennedy was asked to reflect about Thanksgiving. His thoughts then are appropriate today (perhaps more so). He said, “It is fitting that we give our thanks for the safety of our land, for the fertility of our harvests, for the strength of our liberties, for the health of our people. We do so in no spirit of self-righteousness.”
Today, in this land of political self-righteousness, we lack the clarity as a nation to actually reflect and give thanks. Yes, the headlines are bad these days, but they have always been bad (their job is to sell more papers/content). Sure, we have two elderly men leading our two major political parties into a head-on crash. Several members of Congress should be in prison rather than making more campaign pitches for money. Same as it ever was. Yet, out of 180 countries in the world reporting, the U.S. was less corrupt than 156 other countries. If you think the bureaucracy is bad here in Summit County, perhaps try doing business in in Somalia or Syria (the two most corrupt countries on the planet).
Yep, prices are high these days and getting higher. The official inflation rate is 3.2%, but we all know this is not accurate (it comes from the government after all). While we know the groceries we purchase have gone up more than 3.2% in the last year, they have not gone up 318% (Venezuela), 143% (Argentina), 61% (Turkey), 36% (Egypt) and so on. And yes, I get it; we can always do worse.
We should listen to President Kennedy. We are safe in our lands, unlike those living in Israel, Gaza, Ukraine, Russia, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Yemen, Central African Republican, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and Somalia, to name a just a few currently in various stages of all-out war. We have food, unlike an estimated 345 million people worldwide (or more than the entire U.S. population). We have our liberties. While these are being limited by the courts and politicians on both sides of the political spectrum, there are billions of people alive today who can only think but not speak. While the Second Amendment seems to be all the rage all the time, without a strong First Amendment our Constitution would fail.
Yet, Mr. Kennedy, I question the health of a country today in 2023 that is barely able to keep itself afloat. The U.S. spends more per person on health care than any other country, yet it ranks dead last relative to peer countries when it comes to results. This is especially the case here in Colorado, where we were recently ranked as the worst state in the country when it comes to adult mental health. While 1-in-5 U.S. adults are currently “experiencing a mental illness” (defined as “a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder, other than a developmental or substance use disorder”), nearly 1-in-4 are so afflicted in Colorado. In sheer numbers, this equates to over one million of us in Colorado, along with nearly 50 million Americans. No matter your math skills, it’s a lot of people.
What are we doing about it? Not much. Despite our government spending around a billion dollars in 2023 on behavioral health care in Colorado, the results don’t seem to be getting better. The national spending (public and private) is estimated at around $250 billion per year, give or take a few billon (or about Elon Musk’s current net worth). But then again, if you want something done right, you typically need to look more at the local level.
We are lucky. In fact, very lucky. Starting with myself, we all (or most) like to complain about our property, sales and other taxes we pay on a daily basis. And living in a resort community, these taxes are high. But we get something back in return for these high taxes: excellent services. One service that needs to be mentioned in line with all of the previous mental health statistics is that we have Building Hope Summit County. I cannot stress enough how important this is. We all go through tough times. For some, the times are tougher than they perhaps are for others.
People of all incomes and wealth can suffer from a mental illness, from the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich. While people of all income stripes suffer, it should not be dependent upon wealth as to who should receive services and treatment. For anyone who thinks they cannot obtain mental health services for any reason (cost, fear, pride, lack of information, etc.), you owe yourself the favor of at least checking out its website: BuildingHopeSummit.org. And yes, this is a nonprofit, and they do accept donations on its website for those with the means to help! And when you are waiting in line to ride the new Bergman Bowl six-person lift at Keystone, be aware that one or two people on each full chair may be experiencing a current mental illness. Show some kindness and compassion to your fellow human beings. We all could use a break now and then. Especially now.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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