Series overview: Steamboat Pilot & Today continues its commitment to impactful, in-depth reporting on important issues affecting our communities with “Out of the Shadows,” a series shining a light on mental health in Routt County. The series will tackle such topics as access to mental health services; suicide; substance abuse and addiction; law enforcement’s frontline involvement with mental health; mental health issues facing our more vulnerable youth and senior citizen populations; the stigma surrounding mental health; and how COVID-19 has impacted mental health.
Timeline: The series will run on Wednesdays from June 16 to July 21
Week 1: Access to mental health care
This opening installment of the series will focus on access to mental health in Routt County, relying heavily on data and interviews with local providers. The article will look at what barriers exist to people getting the mental health care they need and also efforts underway to close those gaps in service.
Week 2: Suicide
After several years of decline, suicides in Routt County have seen an increase over the past year. This story will look at some specific at-risk demographics for suicide, including teens and middle-aged men, as well as the impact on the people left behind. Mental health care professionals will weigh in on the topic — discussing prevention, common misconceptions and risk factors. Experiencing thoughts of suicide is far more common than most people realize, the experts say, and we all need to be able to talk about it.
Week 3: Substance use disorder/addiction
A story exploring how the very characteristics Steamboat Springs is known for contribute to alcoholism and drug addiction throughout the Yampa Valley, and what locals are doing to help treat people with addiction and reset the local narrative about what some say is a drinking town with a skiing problem.
Week 4: Mental health and the criminal justice system
A look at how law enforcement and the courts are often on the frontlines of dealing with people who have mental health issues and lack resources for treatment. This article addresses how mental health issues are treated in Routt County’s criminal justice system — what’s working and what isn’t —and includes interviews with people who have been through the system, as well as officials who help those with mental issues navigate that system.
Week 5: Mental health issues facing youth and senior citizens
This installment will look at mental health issues facing two of Routt County’s most vulnerable populations — youth and the aging population — and how there is overlap with both groups facing isolation, anxiety, depression and concerns they’ve lost their voice in society. This article will also take a look at efforts underway to strengthen mental health support for both groups.
Week 6: Stigma surrounding mental health
One of the biggest obstacles to seeking mental health care is stigma, and there are significant efforts underway to reduce that stigma. There is a large movement toward integrated medicine — doctors assessing and addressing mental health at the same time as physical health.
Mental and physical health need to be viewed holistically, many experts say, and there should be a normalization around seeking treatment. People need to make sure they are taking care of their mental health just as they care for the physical body.
Sports-related stories: Sports Editor Shelby Reardon will contribute to the series by writing several articles touching upon issues of mental health from a sports and physical activity perspective, including a story exploring how strong stigma exists among athletes getting mental health support and the relationship between mental health and physical activity; a story on the long-term impact of concussions; and a story that shows the relationship between battling addiction and engaging in exercise, why it works and some success stories.
#Move4MentalHealth: A community challenge that will be held in conjunction with the series to encourage people to get outside, get active and raise money for REPS. The challenge will utilize social media platforms to share a positive mental health message and offer people inspiration and tips for incorporating more outside time and physical movement in their lives as a way to combat stress, anxiety and depression.