Living The Dream Or Mentally Unstable? Mental Health Crisis In Mountain Towns

Ryan Nadiak | | BrainsBrains
Mountain Town health
Telluride, Colorado’s main drag. A ski town many dream to live in. Credit:

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Living the ski bum dream in an iconic mountain town should bring only smiles and happy days, right? Well, this is quite far from being the case after years of studies performed across the country. Turns out mountain towns across the U.S are experiencing a major mental health crisis and a solution is needed.

In the United States, roughly 40,000 people take their own lives per year. Other than Alaska, the intermountain west has the highest suicide rate. Montana, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Idaho, and Wyoming consistently rank in the top ten states with the highest suicide rate, thus earning the name “The Suicide Belt”.

The Suicide Belt
Suicide rates in the United States in 2017. Credit: Centers For Disease Control and Prevention

Why is this the case you may ask? Well, as far as the ski town life goes many individuals are seasonaires that lack steady income or well-paying jobs, fall into alcohol and drug addiction, and never fully build consistent relationships with others. These factors, and others, quickly degrade one’s mental moral and can make day to day life very difficult.

Now you can’t blame mountain towns for the high suicide rate but the lifestyle found here contributes. When visiting a resort town, you may notice that a high percentage of employees on the mountain and throughout the town are in their early twenties. You may even see them at more than one job during the day. Mountain towns cater to people on vacation so everything is at vacation prices, but all the workers are being paid near minimum wage and barely scraping by. Additionally, they are there to ski so its ski all day, party all night, and find a way to squeeze in some work in the middle. I don’t know about you but that sounds like a fast track to pure mental exhaustion.

Mountain Town health
A rowdy Apres Ski evening, a draw for many in ski towns. Credit: Val d’lsere

Over the years there have been multiple stories about high suicide rates in mountain towns but there still hasn’t been a clear push for changing this. Aspen, Colorado, Salt Lake City, and Truckee, California, all have suicide rates that extend far above the national average and are major ski bum destinations. Just before this past New Year, professional snowboarder Jaeger Bailey, from Mammoth Lake, California, took his own life at the age of 26. While mountain towns are some of the most desired homes for many and are bases for professional athletes the lifestyle comes with unseen consequences.

Mountain Town health
First light in the Chamonix valley, a place where dreams are limitless.

As depression worsens for many the impulse to stay strong just makes things worse. As a mountain community, we need to come together to battle this stigma and encourage each other to speak up when life gets hard. Too many passionate individuals are taking their own lives. Pulled from an individual on New Schoolers, Speak, Listen, Understand, Solution, Hug (SLUSH).

So, speak up and help us work on putting an end to “The Suicide Belt” and continue enjoying our ski bum lives with clear happy thoughts.

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4 thoughts on “Living The Dream Or Mentally Unstable? Mental Health Crisis In Mountain Towns

  1. Mike Starks, what is ur disagreement to? I lived in Cabot, VT for a few years with an uncle and said screw this and moved Cooke Mt. not much better, and I can tell ya, you have to have the right head space to stay alive. Not everyone can do it. It’s not just the finances and or job….but that helps immensely ….but if you have any , and I mean any , propensity for the slightest mental health issue , it will come out. I was very surprised over the years how people I had known my whole life, changed with 3- 6 months or so of isolation. And I completely agree with Soberup, but man it’s hard not to drink etc. Cocktails are built into the mountain town DNA.

  2. I disagree, i lived in aspen from 1987 to 1996. Locals always felt like they were treading water financially trying to keep up with basic life expenses. Also, the rocky mtn high wears off after 6 months and many people feel let down .

  3. This is no joke I have a family friend who grew up in a small snow town in Montana and lost several friends in high school to self inflicted gunshot wounds. She would tell me how quiet and lonely it would get there in the Winter, especially long heavy Winters your head starts to play tricks with you.

  4. Smoke dope
    snort coke etc
    Drink booze
    sleep repeat
    Has no effect on mental health whatsoever
    Best to engage healthy neuro chemistry natural high on endorphins positive living clean and healthy etc instead.
    Sober up or its a guaranteed slow suicide
    Seen plenty 40+ yrs mtn ski life
    Aint pretty liver transplants detox etc etc
    Life is good if ya really know how to live it proper
    Gratitude and appreciation for even the tiniest of all goes long ways

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