Residents show solidarity during 2nd annual ‘You Are Not Alone’ Hike
Suicide Awareness and Prevention hike raises funds for new organization, the H.O.P.E. Fund
Grand County Rural Health Network’s second annual Suicide Prevention and Awareness Hike unfolded amid blue skies and warm weather at Snow Mountain Ranch Sunday, Sept. 18, in recognition of Suicide Awareness Month. The hike began at the Ranch’s Legett Building and wound through picturesque trails with changing leaves. Attendees chose between an easy loop trail for the group hike, and a longer, scenic 1.5-mile hike.
The aim of the hike was to help end the stigma surrounding suicide and assure community members they are not alone. Approximately 100 participants came together to heal as they remembered those they’ve lost to suicide and supported those who have attempted suicide or struggle with mental health challenges.
Although these challenges sometimes seem insurmountable, the Grand Foundation designated a new fund to help alleviate them this April. All donations from hike went to the newly formed H.O.P.E. Fund.
Standing for “Healing Opportunities through Prevention Efforts,” the new fund was created by Chris and Sue Seemann.
“Our mission is to maintain a sustainable funding source dedicated to mental health resources in Grand County,” Sue Seemann said. “This encompasses not only nonprofits that provide mental health services, but providers as well.”
The H.O.P.E. Fund originally arose out of tragedy, from memorial funds created by various families, including the Seemanns, in the wake of losing loved ones afflicted by mental illness.
Megan Ledin, executive director of the Grand Foundation, explained that one major facet of their mission is creating an affordable, centralized place for mental health care providers and clients to meet.
“Our ultimate goal is to purchase a condo or duplex so … we can act like that VRBO conduit for something that the H.O.P.E. Fund owns,” Ledin said. “(Providers) can come here to provide services, and they don’t have to pay for an office space.”
Ledin explained that lack of housing is an enormous barrier for providers to move to Grand. H.O.P.E. plans to contact providers who work on the Front Range but have an affiliation with Grand County, so they can provide more comprehensive care to Grand’s residents.
“We don’t have enough providers in this county, so we’re enticing them to come in a myriad of different ways. We just secured an office space in Winter Park where counselors can meet,” Seemann said. “We’re going to cover the bill for the first year to give them a place to offer (their) services. We thought if we have the space, people will come.”
Prayers and hiking for mental health
Before the group hike, the Rev. Michael Frey of St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church offered up a prayer for the crowd.
“We pray for families and friends, colleagues and coworkers who have been touched by the suicide of a loved one. We also pray also for those with mental health challenges … who live with thoughts of suicide,” Frey said. “We lift up to (God) those who live in despair without hope because of poverty or discrimination. We pray too that (God) might give us the courage and wisdom to be there for others who are in distress, to offer (his) love and care.”
A number of organizations had booths at the event, including Grand County Rural Health Network, Project Sanctuary, Mind Springs Health, Tame Wellness, Grand County Advocates, Grand County Library District and more. East Grand Fire Protection District lifted some attendees into the air with the firetruck’s aerial ladder for a bird’s-eye view, and other attendees participated in mental health and wellness activities, including massages, yoga, meditation and a suicide survivor support group.
“It was a beautiful day for our community to come together and spread awareness and support each other,” said Amanda Uehlein, Associate Director of Grand County Rural Health Network. “We are very grateful for the all of the sponsors, partners, volunteers and attendees. Without them, this event would not have been possible.”
The overarching theme of the event was one of hope, love and care for the community. No one at the hike was alone, even if they trekked solo. The participating organizations reminded those gathered that when it comes to grieving the loss of a loved one, or simply mental health, residents have many options for help in Grand County.
During the hike through fields and yellow aspen trees, attendees could reflect on the effects of suicide, aided by signs explaining that at-risk groups include children, first responders, veterans and members of the LGBTQ community, many of whom suffer from mental health challenges.
H.O.P.E.’s second mission
The second facet of H.O.P.E.’s mission is updating their centralized website, BuildingHopeGrand.com, which launched on Sept. 17. The website is a resource for residents to turn to, listing all organizations focused on mental health with a link to their websites. Buildinghopegrand.com will eventually include an application for providers to apply for grants for continuing education and other programs. Ledin added that Grand County employers can also use the website as resource they can guide employees towards.
“The H.O.P.E. Fund exists as a funding source to help this tragic situation in our community of … not having enough providers,” Ledin said. “Our goal is for all (the nonprofits and providers) to tell us their needs so we can fund them. We don’t want funding to be a barrier, whether they be a provider or a nonprofit.”
Ledin explained that governments, businesses, or individuals can donate to a centralized system, the H.O.P.E. Fund, and the fund will disseminate the money out to those who need it. Those wanting to donate or learn more can visit the evolving website, BuildingHopeGrand.com.
Colorado has one of the highest rates of suicide in the United States. In 2020, 21.5 per 100,000 people committed suicide in Colorado, with suicide as the 8th-leading cause of death among adults and the #1 cause of death among children. For those struggling with mental health challenges or thoughts of suicide, you are not alone. The following resources are available:
Grand County Rural Health Network
Colorado Crisis Services Hotline
1-844-493-8255 or text ‘TALK’ to 8255
Mind Springs Health Granby
Trevor Project- LGBTQ+ Crisis Line
1-866-488-7386 OR Text 678-678
National Eating Disorders Helpline
Veteran Crisis Line
988, then Press 1 OR Text 838-255
Substance Abuse Hotline
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