Home / World News / How a Summit County family turned a mother’s suicide into a rallying call for better mental health service – The Denver Post

How a Summit County family turned a mother’s suicide into a rallying call for better mental health service – The Denver Post

Patti Casey, along with her husband, Tim Casey, ran a successful Breckenridge real estate marketing firm whose portfolio included the $32.5 million sale of the fabled Caribou Ranch where stars recorded records in the 1970s.

She also volunteered with multiple Summit County nonprofits and parent-teacher associations and served food every year at the Thanksgiving community dinner. She did it all while raising two daughters.

So her January 2016 death sent shock waves through Summit County, because no one expected a woman who was known as St. Patti to kill herself. But the Casey family had kept secret her lifelong struggle with depression and alcoholism.

“My mom was an amazing woman,” said her daughter Betsy Casey. “That was what was difficult to the outside community. We can’t tell you how many people came up to us at the funeral and said, “We didn’t know anything was wrong. We said, ‘Yeah, I know.’

“People actually called her St. Patti. She was so kind and giving. She was the first person to make a casserole when you broke your leg. But she really struggled to reach out and let people know she wasn’t OK.”

After her death, the Casey family decided they no longer would hide their secret. At the funeral, they were open and honest about the years of struggle and the impact it had on each of them.

“It’s happening in Summit County and no one is talking about it,” Betsy Casey said.

Betsy Casey at her home Dec. 27, 2017. Betsy's mother Patti Casey, a prominent Summit County resident, took her own life in Jan. 2016. Betsey Casey started a foundation called Building Hope, a foundation committed to building community, support and access to mental health care.

Andy Cross, The Denver Post

Betsy Casey at her home Dec. 27, 2017. Betsy’s mother Patti Casey, a prominent Summit County resident, took her own life in Jan. 2016. Betsey Casey started a foundation called Building Hope, a foundation committed to building community, support and access to mental health care.

Betsy Casey shared what it was like to be a 7-year-old and know that her mother was drinking too much. She talked about her mother’s electroconvulsive therapy and her own alcohol addiction as an adult. Betsy Casey, 33, is in recovery.

“There was dysfunction, but it doesn’t mean my parents weren’t amazing and loving,” Betsy Casey said. “The rest of the community thought, ‘Oh, that family is perfect.’ ”

The response from community made the Casey family realize they never really had been alone. Others confessed to struggling with the same issues.

When the family started looking into mental health issues and suicide, the Caseys discovered that Summit County’s suicide rate was three times the national average in a state that has one of the highest suicide rates in the country and that mental health lockups in the county jail had skyrocketed in recent years.

“We were trending the wrong way in the last two or three years,” said Gini Bradley, a Summit County nonprofit consultant who worked with the Casey family to create the Patti Casey Memorial Fund. The fund quickly raised $150,000, Betsy Casey said. That’s when the family realized they were on to something.

“At the time, we had no idea what we would do,” she said. “My mom was the catalyst. She was the tipping point, but people were ready to talk about it and change.”

The family used the money to create Building Hope, a nonprofit that focuses on mental health awareness and treatment. The nonprofit opened in June 2016, six months after Patti Casey’s death.

With Bradley’s help, the family pulled together multiple agencies and community leaders — including Sheriff Jamie FitzSimons, the local Family and Intercultural Resource Center, The Summit Foundation, Mind Springs Health, St. Anthony Summit Medical Center and the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The group worked together to create programs that would work in Summit County, where the ski industry and its culture bring unique challenges.

“We have typically rural resources with a more urban population,” Bradley said. “The norms and values of the community can be hard to get a hold of because the population fluctuates. People come and go.”

Young people flock to Breckenridge, Frisco, Keystone and other resort areas to “live the dream,” Bradley said.

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