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Wellness: The Dark Ride — Mental Health in our Mountain Community

There are tangible benefits associated with less work and all play, science even backs it up. The emotional high felt when sending it down a mountain is actually part brain chemistry. Nature’s positive influences on the human psyche have been studied and proven and the limited amounts of oxygen at high altitude have been found to increase dopamine [the feel-good hormone] levels. There is a sense of identity and purpose that comes with following your passions that helps us to get up the morning and seize the proverbial day. It’s a no-brainer, really—move to the mountains, never grow-up.And it works! Mountain living truly is a Never Neverland of gravity-fuelled fun and games. Until it’s not. In a culture that perpetuates a theory of #goodvibesonly, it’s taboo to admit that a substandard day exists, but Whistler and other resort towns are real places with real people whose dreams and aspirations are accompanied by emotions and feelings, relationships and struggles. We get parking tickets, have our hearts broken, make mistakes, step in dog shit, break bones, lose jobs and deal with disappointment from a myriad of expectations. Just like everyone else. 

“Often in life, things will not go as planned,” says Greg McDonnell, Registered Clinical Counsellor and Somatic Experiencing Practioner who has been working in Whistler since 1997. “The sooner we can accept this, the sooner we can work on our adaptability and resiliency to all of this chaos.” 

The words ‘mental health’ are not easily spoken in mainstream society, but they’re even more taboo in the segment of chasing eternal youth. In a culture attuned to reading the natural cycles of the weather, the mountains, the snowpack, and the lightboard, dips in our mental condition often go unnoticed, and that has to change. It’s time for real talk. 

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