A Word From Our Board — Paddy O'Connell
The only boards I’ve ever been considered to be a part of always involved meat and cheese. But that changed when Aspen Strong founder Christina King told me I should apply to the AS Executive Board. The more I learned about Aspen Strong’s commitment to connect people to mental health support and crush the stigma that keeps so many folks sick, I knew I wanted to help.
Aspen Strong’s mission is my mission, and it is very personal and very important to me.
I first thought about suicide when I was in grade school. And suicidal ideation followed me until I went to treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction at 29-years-old, and subsequently went to therapy to finally deal with the sexual abuse from my childhood. Up to that point, I thought that if I spoke about my past I would crumble and disappear like a sandcastle in rising tide. But the opposite was true: the heavy yoke of silence I carried drove me deeper into darkness, isolation, and nearly oblivion.
In sharing, therapy, and recovery, I have found community, understanding and empathy, freedom, and healing. What I thought was a terminally unique life was in fact a foundation for connection.
People do not talk about trauma, about their mental health, about their suicidal thoughts enough, openly, or freely. The social stigma that causes this silence nearly killed me. I was saved by the intervention of friends, family, and professionals. I consider myself very lucky. But many are not.
The United States’ Mountain West region contains eight of the top ten states with the highest suicide rates in our country. The suicide rate in the Rocky Mountains is nearly three times the national per capita average, earning the Rockies the nickname, “The Suicide Belt.” Our beloved Roaring Fork Valley knows this too well. And I am proud that Aspen Strong is working tirelessly to cause significant change to this epidemic.
I believe that the soundtrack to a happy life is laughter, and that life and recovery are team sports. I am very proud to be a member of the Aspen Strong team and to help move our mission forward toward a hopeful future. And though my love affair with fancy, stinky cheese and savory, delicious, dried meats is virtually unmatched, this is by far the best board I’ve had a seat at.