Vail Health, Eagle River Youth Coalition working to make mental health a priority (letter)

This letter was written by Doris Kirchner, Vail Health President & CEO, and printed in the Vail Daily on October 10, 2018.

Upon learning that 16 percent of the seventh- and eighth-graders in Eagle County reported having a suicide plan and 31 percent felt sad or hopeless, a team of concerned leaders at Vail Health jumped into action. A committee was formed to address mental health in our community.

One of the ways we've decided to help is by supporting the Eagle River Youth Coalition's efforts to provide education through its Eat Chat Parent series. Historically intended to offer parents education and guidance on a variety of topics, this year's entire series is dedicated specifically to mental health.

The series kicked off with a presentation about your child's brain on technology, and we were overwhelmed by the record-breaking attendance. More than 550 people joined us at Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley high schools to hear nationally recognized clinical psychologist and author Dr. Lisa Strohman talk about the scary truth of technology's effects on youth.

In our many years of doing free health talks, we have never seen numbers like this. It is clear that our community is awake to the desperate need for mental health resources in our valley, and Vail Health hears you. We were pleased with the feedback we received from audience members who found Dr. Strohman's talk important, insightful and helpful.

Children fifth grade and above were invited to attend with a parent, and Dr. Strohman shared the realities of the indelible and potentially damaging digital footprint each person creates. She showed how technology can be misused for bullying, stalking, identify theft, scams and pornography. With access to computers at school, at home and at friends' houses, children are dangerously vulnerable.

Dr. Strohman implored parents and educators to continually find ways to educate children on being good digital citizens. She also suggested peer-to-peer reinforcement of positive behaviors and involvement in productive activities like sports and youth organizations to minimize screen time.
 
If you didn't have the opportunity to join us for Dr. Strohman's talk, I encourage you to visit her website at digitalcitizenacademy.org, or Vail Health will be posting a video of her presentation soon.

Likewise, save the date for the next Eat Chat Parent presentation on Wednesday, Nov. 7, and Thursday, Nov. 8, when Eagle River Youth Coalition and Vail Health will present the documentary film "Like," followed by a panel discussion with local students and experts. Mental health is as important as physical health, and it's critical that we keep our minds engaged in positive thoughts and activities that enhance our lives.