8th annual Wellness Conference focuses on resources for caregivers

Professional cyclist and Steamboat resident Amy Charity will give the keynote address at the 8th annual Yampa Valley Wellness Conference. (Courtesy photo)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — From grit and goal setting to teen anxiety, the 8th annual Yampa Valley Wellness Conference will delve into a wide range of topics surrounding mental health care and the theme of “Caring for Me and Caring for Community.”

Attendees can learn more about gerontology, chronic pain management and managing health-related finances.

The day-long event will also focus on the need by providers to take care of themselves.

“We want to empower those who work in the field,” said Stephanie Monahan.

If you go

What: Mixer & Movie
When: 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25
Where: The Steamboat Grand, 2300 Mount Werner Circle
Cost: $5 suggested donation

What: 8th annual Yampa Valley
When: 7:45 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26
Where: The Steamboat Grand.
Cost: $25
More info: Flu vaccines will be available at Friday’s conference from 7:45 a.m. to noon (attendees just need to bring their insurance cards).

Monahan is the regional health connector for Northwest Colorado Community Health Partnership, which sponsors the event alongside lead organizer Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide.

People who work in the field of health care and related nonprofits “have big hearts and are extremely empathetic,” Monahan said. “But, they also have to care for themselves.”

Dr. Mike Barnes, chief clinical officer at Foundry Treatment Center, will lead a breakout session on “compassion fatigue,” also known as secondary, or vicarious traumatization.

“It’s not a disorder,” Barnes said. “It’s a normal response to working in a high-stress environment where people are facing physical or emotional pain.”

People can experience “a loss in the belief they have the ability to make a change, or help people,” and a feeling of powerlessness and helplessness, he said.

Compassion fatigue can manifest with various physical and emotional consequences and can impact “virtually anyone in the helping professions who works with individuals who are traumatized.”

There can be a co-experiencing of some of the emotions of their patients, he described. “If you work with traumatized clients long enough, you start to take on some of their story.”

Barnes will present some of the research and science behind compassion fatigue and ways to combat it.

There are steps workplaces can take to foster an environment in which providers can talk about their struggles and reach out for help.

“The thing about self-care,” he said. “Is the things that make us feel better are often the first things we stop doing.” Stopping exercise when tired, for example, or not going out with friends when feeling overwhelmed.

“They get so used to taking care of others, they forget to take care of themselves.”

Compassion fatigue can be one of the reasons many nurses leave the profession, Barnes said, thus requiring hospitals to spend billions on re-training.

And it can impact people across various professions and personal relationships — law enforcement, nursing homes, families dealing with addiction — anything in which one is caring for another.

“If you don’t care about patients, you are not going to get compassion fatigue,” he said.

From Wellness Conference keynote speaker Amy Charity, the message is one of perseverance.

Charity, who lives in Steamboat, decided to quit her job and pursue a career in professional cycling at 34. She is also author of the book “The Wrong Side of Comfortable.”

Charity will focus on goal setting, and said her experiences cycling are easily applied to work and personal life and helping patients face health challenges.

She constantly revisits what it is she is passionate about, “and build my goals off of that. If you keep coming back to your core and what you believe in, it can be helpful when facing difficult situations.”

Working in challenging environments can be made easier by knowing and anticipating the obstacles, she said, and being prepared with strategies to overcome.

Living in Steamboat since 2008, Charity said she appreciates being in a supportive community in which many take to the outdoors and share in healthy activities to deal with life’s daily stresses.

Featured speaker Scott LoMurray is the founder and executive director of Sources of Strength, a youth suicide prevention program. LoMurray also works to address bullying, substance abuse and violence among young people.

His program and philosophy also works to foster strengths in young people and build them up, focusing on positives and finding gratitude, described Monahan.

The conference will begin at 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, at The Steamboat Grand, with a Mixer & Movie. At 6:45 p.m., there will be a screening of the documentary “Angst,” which explores the effects and causes of anxiety. The Craig-Scheckman Family Foundation is the lead sponsor of the event.

At 7:45 a.m. Friday, Oct. 26 registration begins. Tickets can be purchased for $25, which includes breakfast and lunch, at

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email or follow her on Twitter @KariHarden.

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