Featured Suicide in ski town article.

Discussion in 'General Skiing' started by Ron, May 19, 2016.

  1. Ron

    Ron AKA Captain Voltaren Pugski Ski Tester

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  2. SBrown

    SBrown Steve Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    I have read a few articles over the past years about the link to altitude, and always thought it fascinating. Otherwise, I think you end up with a substantial portion of the population who is there because they are running from something, or desiring to escape in some fashion. And they end up in a very transient place, which just worsens any instability. (Unless you are a true hermit, that works out ok.)

    But most people just do not stay in one place once they are there. They either go back to the city and a decent job, or they just keep moving -- and the ones who are left behind have lost their support group. I see it happen all the time.

    I'm not sure I buy the financial explanations, except in the sense that working two or three difficult, low-paying jobs is really stressful,and being under stress just exacerbates any other issues that are happening. Most people know they aren't getting rich when they choose that lifestyle, though, so jealousy over the fancy second homes, nah.
     
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  3. Monique

    Monique bounceswoosh Skier

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    But isn't there a difference between knowing something intellectually, and experiencing it daily? Skiing is I think unusual in the way that people of different economic strata socialize.
     
  4. cantunamunch

    cantunamunch Meh Skier

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    Only if the endpoint is a sense of pointlessness or futility. If the endpoint is want, then the financial explanation is out the window.

    Suicides tend to not want, anything really. One key point all support groups will stress and repeat over and again is 'It's OK to be selfish'.

    That's the bit popular culture generally gets wrong. Suicides are apathetic, not selfish.
     
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  5. Thread Starter
    TS
    Ron

    Ron AKA Captain Voltaren Pugski Ski Tester

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    What I see is that many younger people come to town in search of the "dream" (whatever that is to them) but quickly realize that there isn't any decent housing in town so they live a half-hour to 45 minutes away from town. You need 2-3 jobs to afford just to live with 3 roommates, if you don't have a mtn job that gives you a pass, you cant afford to ski at the resort. Although Steamboat is a real town, the job market for casual labor and retail isn't all that great in the summer so those months can be tough for money. So the reality is that "the dream" can quickly turn into a nightmare for many. Throw into that too much alcohol and/or other drugs and things can get pretty bad. The science behind the altitude is really interesting and if a person has a particular sensitivity to those effects I would think it would def' have an impact.
     


  6. Jim Kenney

    Jim Kenney Travel Correspondent Industry Insider Team Gathermeister

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    Didn't read the article, but aren't suicides proportionally a higher cause of death in young adults? And don't ski towns have a relatively young demographic that might lead to a higher suicide rate than places with a more "average" demographic?
     
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  7. Monique

    Monique bounceswoosh Skier

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    Never tried to commit suicide, but have experienced the lack of any motivation associated with severe depression - calling a hotline saying that it's not that I want to kill myself, but I can't think of any reason to exist other than needing to take care of my pets. That got a reaction pretty quickly. Still, I don't agree with your conclusions. I mean, they make sense, but I think there can be a crushing level of subsistence living that might interact with being around people living it up that could make things feel hopeless. I notice most of the regulars I ski with are doctors and engineers .... or retired from those jobs. A few entrepreneurs. A few "dirtbag" types, but by far the minority. Of course that's probably skewed by the fact that we all chose Breck.

    Yeah, really interesting. I think it must be specific body chemistries - I feed off of sunshine and wither when it's grey, so mountain time is a lifesaver for me in the winter. In fact my psych says a lot of people with SAD "self-medicate" with winter activities like skiing that get them into the sunshine on weekends.
     
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  8. Monique

    Monique bounceswoosh Skier

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    Several of the examples cited were men in their 40s, but I don't think they gave specific statistics.
     
  9. cantunamunch

    cantunamunch Meh Skier

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    Not sure how that disagrees with my point, as it simply restates the conditions necessary for my (conditional) clause "Only if the endpoint is a sense of pointlessness or futility".

    Do, however, notice that someone who has reached the point of not caring about wealth gap is actually in quite some danger. The next step is not caring about skiing/riding or social interaction.
     
  10. nay

    nay dirt heel pusher Skier

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    I agree with ^^^^. I wrote this over on Epic to the same thread...

    I think that the Rockies can also be a last stop for people hoping that where you live will change how you feel - it's a last chances geography.

    In other words, people who are struggling may be more likely come here when also otherwise socially isolated, and high mountains don't fix issues with social isolation, but rather reward people who thrive in some degree of social isolation. Wanting to be a ski bum, and wanting to be a social ski bum, are I suspect, radically different things.

    In any case, I wonder how much is a transplant problem based on the type of person likely to move here, and the lack of strong cultural grounding (other than 'independence', which probably correlates to suicide rates given the known health benefits of social connectedness). Some of us fit so strongly and drive those best places to live rankings, and some do not despite having sold themselves on the idea.

    I am from the east coast, and I felt like it was coming home moving here, but my independent streak is totally dominant. A lot of people don't feel that way and struggle with the significantly different culture than their birthplace, whether they want to admit it or not.

    My wife talks openly about those differences and how she feels on the east coast (and Germany where she grew up as a civilian). She loves where we live, but is not an intermountain West culture fit, and culture is extremely meaningful to her as a part of personal social history and experience.

    Those things don't mean much to me - I feel so grounded here that it is difficult to leave even for short periods of time. But I think I am a significant minority, and I think there are a lot of people who live here who really are 'on the wrong skis' so to speak, because all things considered including perhaps brain chemistry, it isn't easy. How many people really recognize that moving to high altitude is more difficult than living much farther north than they would ever contemplate?
     
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  11. cantunamunch

    cantunamunch Meh Skier

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    Yeh, since Robin Williams the number of over-40 suicides has finally started getting noticed.

    http://www.bcmj.org/articles/silent-epidemic-male-suicide

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/acti...-many-middle-aged-men-committing-suicide.html

    That last one begins to address the point I've been attempting to make in this thread - we're so focused on the challenges, the downside of living (anywhere really) that we forget it's also a question of lack of an up side. Nothing to make it all worth it.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2016
  12. SBrown

    SBrown Steve Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    Perhaps. And I'm not ever talking about socializing -- it's the deeper support networks and friendships that are made difficult in a transient society.

    Put another way, I don't think financial jealousy is actively driving people over the edge.
     
  13. David Chaus

    David Chaus If I am skiing the world is a perfect place. Skier

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    My .02, FWIW:

    From my experience, perspective and knowledge base as a mental health therapist, the article is spot-on, particularly the emphasis on the lack of intergenerational family and social support systems. People without a strong network of family and friends, and in isolation, are far more likely to commit suicide than people with healthy relationships, not to mention dealing with financial stresses when one is isolated. Also I concur that suicide rates are correlated with alcohol and other substance use. Almost everyone I've ever treated who has had significant substance use issues have also made or seriously contemplated suicide at one time or another. The more dependent someone is on external mood-altering substances to cope with stress, the greater the incidence of violence, both toward others and towards oneself. That may explain some of the national increase in suicide rates in young adults, combined with a perceived lack of opportunities. I think if substance abuse rates went down, so would suicides. But then, people tend to use substances when their daily realities suck, when their family and home life suck, when their economic outlook is discouraging, when they have little to look forward to. I think suicide rates are an indication of inequity in social and economic structures. So I guess it makes sense that the disparity between in haves and have-nots in a resort town would result in higher suicide rates.

    That all said, it totally sucks. It's hard to be the person who contemplates, attempts or completes a suicide, and it's hard for the people who have to clean up the mess. Sometimes literally clean up the mess; I've dealt with people who worked near Lake Union and the Ship Canal just under the Aurora Bridge in Seattle, which was a common site for people to commit suicide. People committing suicide often thought they were jumping in the water but didn't realize that most of the bridge is over warehouses and concrete pavement. A lot of falling bodies went splat, and it's pretty horrible for someone to witness, or to see the aftermath, or for responders, or for maintenance workers to clean up after everybody else has left. They finally put up a tall fence alone the bridge walkways, and as it wasn't as easy to commit suicide, there are now fewer suicides (the person contemplating suicide didn't go out of their way to find another clever method). Now, you throw handguns in the mix, that completely escalates the risk of suicide in the group of despondent, lonely people we're talking about. If it's relative easy to take one's life, more people do so. If it's more difficult, less people follow through.

    I'm treating a 12-year-old kid right now, whose father died in early March (from cancer, not suicide), and his mom just informed me that the kid's uncle just died. I'm anticipating some lingering behavioral issues to rear up with a vengeance. This kid's had a tough year. So it reminds me that every suicide, every unexpected death, impacts a great many people.
     
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  14. Monique

    Monique bounceswoosh Skier

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    Just thought you had a different emphasis. But maybe not.

    I am from the east coast, and when I moved to the front range, it didn't take long for me to realize how much I loved it here. My mom over the years has commented on how happy I seem, and I tell her "I have found my people." I'm not sure if I would feel the same if I were to live in an actual mountain town; it's a different vibe. I listen to a lot of podcasts from Slate and NPR, and the way they talk about certain things makes me realize that they have no idea it's different when you're not in the mid Atlantic. Or don't care. I don't consider myself super independent (although data may not back me up), but I moved out to live with a boyfriend, and so I've always had at least one person in my network.

    A ski buddy of mine moved out here with his wife. He is in heaven. She had planned to become a skier and love it, but it just didn't gel for her. She found it tough that people didn't really go out to lunch to catch up; they'd go on a hike or ski or whatever where talking is secondary. This is something I struggled with, too, when I came out here. Anyway, as it turns out, in the winter anyway, he spends half his time in the mountains while she lives in another state, and they make it work and fly to see each other regularly. Obviously there are resources there that many couples don't necessarily have. A ski instructor I know has a similar situation; his wife stays on the east coast over the winter, and he goes back to visit her regularly. I hadn't ever thought of it the way you're describing it, I guess because to me it is "obvious" that this is the best place in the world - but just as I've found home, others' homes may be in NYC, in Austin, in San Francisco.

    Anyway, I can see how it could be tough if your "native" way of relating is long, deep conversations, because I don't find that very often here - it's definitely more let's hike / let's bike / let's climb / let's ski. That could also be the people I've chosen to spend time with, but I think it's even more the case the farther into the mountains you go.
     
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  15. Core2

    Core2 Out on the slopes Skier

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    I grew up at 7000 ft and chalked up the depression in our town to higher than average substance abuse and just generally hard to make a life living conditions. That is every mountain town. They all have some quirk or nuance that will test anyone's mental health. You have to be slightly a crazy weirdo to survive as a local in most mountain towns. Crazy weirdos have a higher tendency to off themselves from what I have seen.
     
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  16. SBrown

    SBrown Steve Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    That's pretty succinct, lol.

    There is a fine balance between independence and human need and rebellion and convention. I have a lot of thoughts running through my head right now. But I guess I will just say this: @Monique 's comments about moving here and feeling at home, yes, but of course we aren't "in" the mountains down here. I grew up in the Front Range suburbs, and went to another state for college (initially ... I transferred back home and graduated from CU Boulder). People seemed to think it was pretty cool to be from CO, and one girl gushed at me, "You look like you just walked out of the mountains!" I still am not sure if it was supposed to be a compliment or not. But at the time, I was a bit aghast, because that was NOT a compliment to a 17yo girl who knew what "those people" actually looked like. :roflmao:

    I hadn't thought of that in a long time, but I'm sitting here wondering about that suicide rate, and what percentage of victims are from the Rocky Mountain area, whether or not from a mountain town, as opposed to out of state/region. Expectations? Are Front Rangers maybe a tad more realistic because we see it at least a little more than the vacationers? I know plenty of flatlanders who came to the high country looking to "find themselves." I am viscerally drawn to the mountains, too, but ... I just want to tell them, "Wherever you go, there you are."

    (Although, I need to add that yes there is definitely the grizzled true local Western stereotype who is just ready to kick it and goes and does it with the least possible amount of fuss.)
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2016
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  17. eok

    eok Slopefossil Skier

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    Totally agree with that.

    COMPLETELY dedicating your life to an action sport like skiing at a young age & then waking up one day, realizing you're in your 40's now, broke, your body is seemingly falling apart (from accumulated injuries) and you haven't planned for your future - that's surely a depressing situation for some. Same deal with any action sport.

    I've known a number of young guys who put their life & education on hold for years while they raced mountain bikes. Some of them are in their late 20s or early 30s now. It's so hard to make real $$$ as a pro MTB racer (prize money is ridiculously little - often barely enough to pay for the trip). I can't imagine how tough it would be to try and reboot one's education & career plans in their 30s. I won't even go into all the serious injuries these guys have racked up over the years. Anyway, I worry about them & what they'll go through when they hit their 40s.
     
  18. SBrown

    SBrown Steve Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    That but even more broad ... when you are in your 20s, you might have the energy to work long days, party all night, and play hard (which is why you're here) on your off hours. That energy doesn't last forever, though; just ask me ....
     
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  19. Brian Finch

    Brian Finch PT, CSCS, Cert- DN, FRCms, M|WOD Coach Industry Insider

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    I had a client EXPLODE on me over this & we're low altitude; his beef was that Ski Towns run on the backs of alcoholics with broken dreams & how dare I suggest that excessive drinking may just be offensive & off putting to some.
     
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  20. nay

    nay dirt heel pusher Skier

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    I can't imagine trying to stand up and grind out a career in your 40's. Granted I have kid fatigue, but even still, it's hard to imagine just having to commute to an office every day purely from an energy perspective. We see this everywhere with most people foundationally sick because they had to put health, friends, and family on a back burner to keep the basic work/money fire lit. This will kill you - there is a reason we are no longer expected to outlive our parents (much less retire with security).

    Another thing missing here is that the intermountain states I believe score very poorly in mental health services, and social services in general. While I appreciate sketchy places that don't even have guard rails vs. the eastern danger signs on things that amount to maybe stepping off a curb, when it comes to mental health that means sending a lot of people off a cliff.

    I see no coincidence in our high levels of gun violence, our high levels of mentally ill on the streets in B class sizes cities (think Colorado Springs), etc.

    But focusing on more difficult places probably isn't much more than a canary in the coal mine affair. We are actively collapsing our key social structure institutions, isolating more and more people into poverty, and selling fake dreams that benefit almost no one. Skiing does expose this dichotomy of poor serving rich, but suicide rates in his country are going to skyrocket because we are uniquely susceptible to the contributing factors and will double down on independence as a political cure for all that ails.
     

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