Stories + Articles
There is one month a year where the LGBTQIA+ community is actively celebrated, along with the progress that’s been made toward acceptance and inclusion, the heroes who got us here, and to also commemorate the lives lost to hateful acts, government indifference and personal despair.
While Big Sky ramps up, it is important to remember that our natural instincts are calling us to slow down and move into a state of “wintering.” Wintering is not about throwing out the to-do lists or cutting back work hours (because sometimes this isn’t possible), but it’s about discovering a sense of calm and rest within yourself.
As much as many of us are far away from where we grew up, we are all products of our environments of origin – physical and emotional circumstances that were mostly out of our control. These so-called social determinants can be more important than health care or lifestyle choices in influencing health.
Behind the picturesque scenery of flowing rivers, rugged mountains, wildflower meadows and a vibrant town are the individuals who make the Big Sky community hum with arts, culture, entertainment and opportunities to connect. Though job postings hold promise for work/life balance and finding solace in the mountains, unfortunately many people quickly realize the inherent challenges of resort-town living.
Safety is a fundamental requirement for being our best, authentic selves and impacts our ability to genuinely connect with others. By safety, I don’t just mean free from physical harm or danger, but our sense of safety that is rooted in our nervous systems. Our nervous system responds the same to life-threatening situations and stressful, difficult situations. Biologically, we do not distinguish between the two. Just because we are safe optically, does not mean we feel safe physically, psychologically, emotionally or socially.
Pride Month is a celebration throughout the month of June of the LBGTQAI+ community, the progress that’s been made toward acceptance and inclusion, the heroes who got us here and a renewal of commitment toward a more supportive, open and loving future. It’s also a time to honor lives lost to hateful acts, government indifference and personal despair.
COVID-19 impacts starting with isolation, loss and anxiety coupled with Big Sky’s rapid growth and tourist surges have created unique challenges for our young people to form the sense of community and connections they crave. As the effects of the pandemic continue to play out in Big Sky, our youth are raising their voices and providing an opportunity for community reflection and response.
Though the consequences of facing mental health challenges may seem less extreme now, stigma still exists and takes many shapes and forms in society today. Institutionally, socially, culturally, and internally, people view mental health challenges as being unusual or tainted, even though mental health challenges are simply a part of the human experience.
According to a recent Community Health Assessment conducted by Gallatin County and other partners, excessive drinking in Big Sky increased from 27.3 percent in 2017 to 33.9 percent in 2020—much higher rates than in Montana and the U.S. In Big Sky, 48.5 percent of people report their life has been negatively affected by their own or someone else’s substance abuse. COVID-19 has made things worse.
Seasonal depression affects approximately 10 million Americans. It is estimated that another 10-20 percent are mildly affected or unreported. The average age of onset is between 20 and 30 years old and prevalence appears to be related to areas that are at higher elevations.