Vail Daily column: Rescuing mountain souls |

Vail Daily column: Rescuing mountain souls

Nicholas T. Fickling
Valley Voices

When I tell people that I live and work in Eagle County, close to the world-famous ski resorts of Vail and Beaver Creek, their immediate reaction is: “How wonderful for you to live in such a beautiful place where there is so much happening. What a marvelous place to bring up children. Do you all ski?”

What most outsiders, and many who live in our valley, fail to realize is the pressure that living here brings. The Vail Daily occasionally publishes an article about substance abuse in the valley or a story that touches on mental health, but generally the picture we all get is of a Happy Valley “where all of the women are strong, all of the men are good-looking and all of the children are above average”.

There are so many active things to do here and so many of us push ourselves far too hard physically and try to cram too much into the limited time available between our jobs (yes most of us have more than one) and our kids. The teenagers here are either largely ignored or under enormous pressure to perform, not only academically but also at sport where the pressure to become the next Mikaela Shiffrin or “to letter” can be heavy indeed.

Then there is the altitude. A 2014 University of Utah study found a clear link between altitude, depression and suicide rate, so the fact that you or your Eagle County son or daughter may be struggling with depression or self-medicating with alcohol, recreational drugs or prescription drugs (all of which are on the rise and occurring at younger and younger ages) is not without reason, even if you are the perfect parent.

Now I am not telling you all to leave town, although that would certainly help considerably with our housing shortage, but rather to give a shout-out for The Samaritan Counseling Center, based in Edwards, that has provided counseling for anyone seeking it since 1997.

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In 2016 alone, Dr. Randy Simmonds, the executive director at the Samaritan Counseling Center, and his team of licensed counselors, licensed clinical psychologists and a clinical psychology intern (even though fully qualified, interns have to work for approximately 2,000 hours before they can become licensed) provided 1,809 hours of education and training for our community, over 1,300 hours of counseling in our middle schools and high schools, and 2,206 clinical hours either with our families or with us, one on one. This, of course, comes at a cost. Unlike Vail Mountain Rescue, which has its rescue successes trumpeted by the Vail Daily whenever someone is helped, The Samaritan Center understandably cannot in any way speak up for the way it acts on a daily basis providing rescues of a different sort for troubled souls in our community.

Because Dr. Simmonds believes that anyone who appears at the door of his Samaritan Center should receive help regardless of their ability to pay, he and his staff multi-task to keep it running without raising the hourly rate charged. They are always on the lookout for cunning ways to cut costs and raise money so that nobody is turned away. The number of counseling hours required to meet the need in our valley and the counseling hours provided by the Samaritan Counseling Center are both increasing year after year. This has been a particular challenge in an economy where the rich are getting richer and everyone else is standing still or sinking.

So, as someone who has known Dr. Simmonds for many years and knows just how much he and his staff at the Samaritan Counseling Center have helped people in our community, I am asking you to think of ways you can help. That might be through a donation, it might be by suggesting to someone you know that they donate, it might be by having your employer sponsor an intern, or it could be you offering to help in some other way that I haven’t thought of.

You can reach Dr. Simmonds at the Samaritan Counseling Center, P.O. Box 122, Edwards, CO, 81632. His email address is Also check out their website at http://www.samaritan-

Nicholas T. Fickling lives in Edwards.

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