A little backstory first: I lost my little brother to suicide in February of 2019. Since then, I've advocated for teen suicide prevention and destigmatizing mental illness. Part of that work included founding a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, called Jackstrong17 in honor of my brother, Jack. I raised over $46,000 and have been using that money to help craft legislation, stage school walk-outs, host events, and provide scholarships. Recently, we passed "Jack and Cait's Law," in the Colorado legislature which basically provides a legal foundation for how we can better manage bullying incidents and requires therapy for all parties involved.
I have worked on countless campaigns nationwide, including helping film, direct, and storytell for some viral public service announcements which were played at movie theatres and appear in ads all over the US. I also interviewed a group of teenagers in the viral movie, Childhood 2.0 (Which can be found for free here: https://youtu.be/He3IJJhFy-I) Additionally, I sit on the National Mental Health Advisory Board and recently received a $5,000 grant from a large, national organization in order to perform an access to mental health care study in Montana. I am in my final semester of studying Neuroscience at Bridger Bowl University --errr-- Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. I also recently received University endorsement for the Rhodes Scholarship to study Clinical and Therapeutic Neuroscience at Oxford University in the UK.
My point being, essentially, that I am incredibly passionate about mental health and preventing teen suicide; and, I intend to devote the remainder of my days to tackling the latter.
Okay, so now you're probably wondering, bro why are you saying all this on NS? As many of you likely know, mountain west states like Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and Nevada (and Alaska) lead the country in suicide rates per capita. And if you hone in further on ski communities, you will unfortunately discover that these communities are affected by suicide rates that are nearly triple the national average.
This summer I found myself wondering: how is this the case and what can I do to bring attention to a crisis that is disproportionately affecting members of my beloved ski community?
I landed on the idea of creating a unique ski film, and pitched this idea to a couple friends who operate a production company in town here in Bozeman. The idea is basically to create a film with a bunch of testimonials from big name skiers, resort employees, park skiers, comp skiers, big mountain skiers, backcountry skiers, and street skiers to form a collage of mental health experiences. Their stories, told in their own words, will be intertwined into ski footage we plan to film all around the West in a creative form.
My hope is that just by hearing and seeing that mental illness affects almost everyone in one way or another, that we can begin the arduous task of destigmatizing mental illness and seeking treatment in the ski industry. Or at the bare minimum, I hope to at least inspire some of us to have a conversation about mental health that we otherwise wouldn't have had.
So now you're probably really thinking, okay dude cool, but again why are you saying this here? I'll get straight to it: we need support from the industry to make the project happen at all and to push the final product out as far and wide as possible.
But first, I need your help, NS!
Are any of you aware of any ski industry companies who actively support destigmatizing mental health or have in the past? If so, who? If not, which companies should I reach out to first for support? And if you are an owner or work in industry, are you interested in supporting this project? All donations, gear or otherwise, will be completely tax-deductible through my non-profit. I have only reached out to Phunkshun Wear so far, as they previously produced some facemasks for my non-profit (with @Liam_j10 's artwork). The friendly folk at Phunkshun expressed great interest right away and wanted to know how they could help.
More than anything I just want as many people in our community as possible to see that they aren't alone in their struggles and that seeking treatment is totally normal (and awesome, in my opinion).
If any of you are interested in providing a short video testimonial in a couple months regarding your mental health experiences, please shoot me a PM!
Thank you for reading this essay of a post and thank you in advance for any suggestions and for all the giggles this week in the forums:)