Publisher’s column: Start the conversation on mental health in Garfield County

Jerry Raehal

The first time I went to counseling, I didn’t have a choice.

From the outside looking in, it wouldn’t have appeared I needed to go.

I was 16-years-old, a high-level athlete, a good student with good friends.

But after my third run-in with the law in three years, I was put on probation and court-ordered to go to counseling.

In addition to being really bad at breaking the law, I had issues I didn’t know how to deal with, leading to bad decisions … such as breaking the law

I can’t say if counseling saved my life, but I have no doubt it put me on a better path — an unexpected path.

Counseling provided perspective to realize what were truly mountains and what were molehills I was making too big.

I went to counseling again in college as I tried to sort out some childhood issues. And I sought counseling again shortly after my first child was born.

I was struggling at balancing a workaholic schedule, a deep desire to be a good father and a feeling of depression. I also had an overwhelming fear my son was going to die, and I was split between being detached from him, while at the same time consumed with his safety. Every night I would get up multiple times and place my hand on his chest to make sure he was breathing.

So why am I sharing this with you?

Because as someone who advocates for mental health and the benefits of counseling, I want to share I’ve had dark days. Days that I could not think straight, and days I’ve struggled to get out of bed.

Each time I’ve gone to counseling it has helped, even when I didn’t like or connect with the counselor. And that’s provided bright days, better days … or just days that I know I can get through.

But I also want to share this: I get why there is a stigma attached to seeking help.

I have fears. Writing this, I feel my concerns intensify.

Will people judge me? Will people think I’m weak? That I couldn’t handle it on my own?

I get why discussing mental health on a personal level is hard. One reason I was drawn “mental health comedian” Frank King as a keynote speaker for tonight’s Longevity event were several things he said on his TED Talks events.

He had experienced high levels of success — from a 20-year career writing for the Tonight Show to well-run corporate stand-up routine — and even at the high times, he felt depressed.

I can relate.

He wondered if he felt depressed when things were going well, how would he react when things got bad?

I can relate to that, too.

More than that, I was drawn to how he explained how to start a conversation with each other.

Start the conversation.

That phrase is why I’ve been so passionate about this year’s Longevity Project focused on mental health. We’ve penned several stories, videos and held several micro-events, with it all culminating tonight with a presentation by King at Morgridge Commons — a humorous look at our darkest moments of life, with a mission of how to start the conversation.

My mental health conversation was forced on me, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

If you are someone who is maybe dealing with some issues, or if you have a loved one you’re concerned about, you might want to come to tonight’s event. But if nothing else, have a conversation. With a counselor if you need it. Or with a loved one if they need it.

At minimum, it can help put them on a better path. And it may save a life.

Jerry Raehal is publisher of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

Editor’s note: You can get tickets to tonight’s event online at or at the door. Tickets are $15 with proceeds being donated to local non-profits. Admission is free for teachers and students — please contact me at for details. Frank King will be available at 5 p.m. if you would like to meet him.

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