Depression is a community health issue |

Depression is a community health issue

Erin Fenner

Moffat County gets dark and the temperatures dip deep into negative digits in the dead of winter.

It’s not always an easy place to live.

People get isolated, they get stuck inside and they get sad.

Tracey Lathrop, a clinician at Mind Springs Health, said one of the most important things to do when facing depression is to reach out.

“Reach out and somebody will reach back. That’s probably one of the biggest things,” Lathrop said. “Even if you don’t feel like it, go out or join a group or get online.”

Craig Thornhill, program director for Mind Springs Health, said nearly 25 percent of the population suffers from a diagnosable mental health problem. Roughly 800 people came through Mind Springs’ doors. But that number doesn’t come close to reflecting how many people could use professional help, he said.

“We are ruggedly independent individuals out here,” Lathrop said. “That sense of independence can also be isolating and can cut us off from reaching out.”

People can be scared to get help, even when they need it, because of the negative perceptions around mental health, she said.

“There’s still a stigma out there. That needs to go away. Seasonal Affective Disorder impacts our area very heavily. It is so cold. People do get so isolated,” Lathrop said. “Just getting out the word that depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder is a matter of biology. It’s not a matter of a weakness of character.”

There are many options for people who need to deal with depression, Thornhill said.

Some are pretty straightforward.

Get good sleep. Eat well. Exercise. Don’t rely on substances to cope, he said.

He agreed with Lahtrop that reaching out was essential.

“That’s one of the beauties of Moffat County,” he said. “There’s a real sense of support in this town.”

It’s important to laugh, take time for yourself, set reasonable goals and communicate what your needs are. Those are effective ways of getting past a dark point, Thornhill said.

Beyond that, there are other resources, Lathrop said.

Besides Mind Springs, there is Yampa Valley Psychotherapists and A&S Counseling, she said.

Some people may be wary of seeking out professional help because of the stigma, but Lathrop said it’s a step to recovery that should be taken seriously.

“This is treatable and you don’t have to be on meds forever. You don’t have to be in therapy forever,” she said.

Mental health professionals want to help clients overcome depression, Thornhill said.

“We are truly here to help people learn skills,” he said.

Depression is a community health issue, Lathrop said. If people notice their friends, family or neighbors falling into a rut, they should reach out.

“If you notice these things, if you notice somebody that’s not going out as much … give them a holler,” she said. “Offer to go for a cup of coffee.”

A person struggling with depression can be fundamentally affected by that sort of gesture, she said.

Mind Springs operates a 24-hour crisis line that anyone can call during a time of need at 1-888-207-4004.

Contact Erin Fenner at 970-875-1794 or


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