Mountain Mental Health is your connection to better mental health while living in, or just visiting, the Rocky Mountain region. Discover what makes mental health a little different when living a mountainous climate. Wait, what? Putting things in perspective, soul-crushing depression and soul-ripping anxiety are largely the same no matter where you live. Yet, science provides compelling data that there are substantive differences in mental health for populations that live at higher altitudes. The effects, however, are mixed: Studies suggest that people who live in mountainous regions—and the Rocky Mountains in particular—tend to be slightly happier on average, but they also tend to take their own lives with slightly higher frequency.
A contradiction? Perhaps not. Myths and stories would have us believe that wise men live on mountaintops, you know, in the darkest caves but also among the whitest clouds. More likely, what’s different when it comes to mental health is the thin air and the body’s response to the less oxygenated air. There’s a kind of pseudo-intoxication that can lead to giddiness or reckless even self-destructive behavior. This isn’t to say that this effect overpowers your free will or occurs to an exaggerated degree. We’re talking a few dozen people per 100,000 residents and we’re talking about self-reported evaluations of happiness.
Here’s the point: You shouldn’t blame your bad choices on the thin, mountain air—just as you shouldn’t assume that you’re suddenly going to be happy or suddenly become a completely different person just because you moved to Colorful Colorado. What you should do is appreciate how your environment—and every aspect of your environment, not just the altitude—can have a subtle, but significant, effect on your day-to-day mood and long-term life satisfaction.
Mental health is a lot less about epiphanies than most people suppose. Look to take small steps that can improve your environment and build on themselves over time. Some people end up an environment, or an internal anguish, that is beyond the ability to improve on your own. For this reason, we also want Mountain Mental Health to be a place where you can understand what type of mental health service you or a loved one need—and then how to find a trusted provider nearby. Stay tuned as work on building this site into something helpful.