Editor’s Column: Stigma, snowflakes, and sensationalizing

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Last week when I wrote about finding gratitude, I wasn’t expecting to be quite so tested by that notion. I’ll begin with this: I am profoundly grateful for and proud of our local law enforcement and EMS crew and dispatch. We had an upsetting Thanksgiving eve that ended with my husband in the hospital in Grand Junction.

So here is a personal shout-out to RBC Deputy Travis Mobley and Meeker Police Officer Justin Yates for their calm, professional mannerisms and methods during our family emergency. You acted as peace officers, which is exactly what we needed. Thank you also to the Meeker EMS crew who were kind and helpful, and to local dispatcher Brittany Mancini, who kept me reasonably calm when my hands were shaking so bad I could barely hold on to the phone. You are appreciated, and you are necessary.

It was a timely — albeit uncomfortable — experience, just as we’ve been planning to embark on a collaborative series about mental health issues triggered or exacerbated during the pandemic and the particular challenges our tri-county Northwest Colorado area has with mental health resources. We’ll be working with editors from the Craig Press and the Steamboat Pilot, along with Susan Greene and Tina Griego from COLab. The first part of that series, titled “On Edge,” will be published next week in the HT.

I’m sharing my own family’s story publicly, despite possible repercussions. Why?

Because even knowing what I already know about mental health and mental illness, shame and guilt and stigma still tried to sneak up on me. I had to remind myself that if my husband had a heart attack, there would be no shame in calling an ambulance. He had a brain attack, not a heart attack. The only difference is it’s a different organ.

We learn CPR to help keep someone alive when their heart stops. We learn the Heimlich maneuver to save a choking victim. What do we learn to help keep someone alive when their brain goes haywire and stops working? I thought I was prepared, and yet I still panicked. That tells me we need more training, transparency, and information.

There was an ‘80s movie where a character couldn’t say the word “cancer” out loud. She whispered it, everytime, even in regular conversation. Cancer was stigmatized once, too. Now there are pink ribbons emblazoned all over everything. There’s empathy and compassion for cancer fighters. Stigma about mental health is part of the reason people avoid getting the care and support they need. And then there’s limited availability of providers. And then there’s the cost — I don’t even want to think about that part yet. The pandemic has made all of those issues worse.

It’s estimated one in four adults will experience a significant mental health crisis during their lifetime. We all have to be in this together, and we all need to tell our stories. You’d be surprised how many people you know have had similar situations themselves or with a relative or a friend. I’d love to talk to any of you about your experiences with mental health in Northwest Colorado or mental health during the pandemic in the next few weeks. Whether you’ve battled depression or PTSD or bipolar, or you’re a family member of someone who lives with mental illness, we’re all in the same boat. Drop me an email or give me a call.

On another, perhaps lighter note, there’s a new mystery in town: the secret identity of “Gossip Granny,” a Facebook persona creating biting satire posts and memes that roast specific local entities and individuals. Some of them are pretty harsh.

Who is behind this Gossip Granny persona? Folks have asked if it’s me, or one of us at the newspaper, which made me laugh. We’re barely keeping our heads above water over here, between COVID and crisis and all the rest of the family stress.

Like it or lump it, Granny has the right to her opinion, and that’s what Facebook is for: opinions.

Speaking of opinions, you’ll find snowflakes scattered throughout the paper this week. Someone deemed us a “snowflake paper” for running a Colorado Parks and Wildlife press release last week reminding residents that even if wolves have been delisted nationally, they are still protected in Colorado, so if y’all “shoot, shovel and shut up” and get caught, you’re liable to get a hefty fine.

The first person to count all the snowflakes and call us at 970-878-4017 (leave a message if we’re not there), email accounts@ht1885.com or message us on Facebook with the correct number, will win a gift from the HT. Here’s a hint: there are a lot of them.

I’ve also been asked if I’m “in cahoots” with the Public Health Director by “sensationalizing” the pandemic for some nefarious and imagined reason. I’ve been chuckling about it all week. First, you can’t sensationalize numbers. Second, if I wanted to be in cahoots with someone, I probably wouldn’t pick the lowest paid county department head. Thanks for the laugh, though, I needed it.

CORRECTION: It was pointed out to us after publication that the Public Health Director is not the lowest paid “department head.” More information is in the Editor’s Column from the December 10 edition of the HT.

By NIKI TURNER | niki@ht1885.com


  1. —-Because even knowing what I already know about mental health and mental illness, shame and guilt and stigma still tried to sneak up on me.  

    Actually, there is very little “sneaking” about it, it is projected into the media every day and difficult therefore to ignore. 

    It would be interesting to make a list of those projecting that prejudice into the media, into children’s minds, and a list of those in the media cooperating with projecting it. 

    Harold A Maio, retired mental health editor

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