I wear two hats at 5280. I write longform stories and I also oversee our digital editorial projects. This month, however, I had an opportunity to wear both hats on one major project.
“Riders on the Storm” is my investigation of Colorado’s mental health system. At first, I didn’t think this story would be so difficult to write. I’ve already written about child murderers, the foster care system, infertility, domestic violence, and the death penalty, and I thought looking into mental illness would be a cakewalk compared to those stories. Plus, I knew the statistic: that one in four people deal with some type of a mental illness, so there would be plenty of people willing to talk about it. Right?
Wrong. What I learned in the more than 18 months it took to report and produce this article is that few people are willing to discuss personal mental health battles—and even fewer are willing to do so on the record.
They were mostly concerned with the way the public might perceive them—or their loved ones. Inevitably, before I came knocking, someone else—a friend, a boss, a stranger—had treated them in such a way that made them wary. However, for this piece, I was able to convince more than 10 courageous people to speak to me on the record, and dozens more shared background information with me.
I was actually able to gather so much information that my editors and I decided to do something unprecedented at 5280 and present everything in an enhanced multimedia package. At 5280.com/mentalhealth, you’ll find the main story, but you’ll also find resources for getting help, getting informed, and getting involved. Through a video, you’ll meet an artist with a bipolar diagnosis. You’ll see a slideshow of famous people who live with mental illness—and thrive. You can even read tips on surviving the holidays.
You’ll see these related sidebars as you scroll through the main story, and hovering or clicking on highlighted text will open an information box. (Just click “Close” to return to the main story.) Our navigational menu on the top of the page allows you to jump between chapters, individual stories, and resources, or to share the story on Twitter and Facebook. Want to join the conversation? This issue deserves a broader discussion across our community. Hopefully, this augmented presentation is a productive way to initiate that. We welcome your feedback below.
IT WASN’T RAINING ON THAT DAY LAST JULY, BUT IT MIGHT AS WELL HAVE BEEN. JUDY, 68, WAS BORN AND RAISED UNDER COLORADO’S BLUEBIRD SKIES, AND LATELY SHE FELT TOSSED AROUND IN A TORRENTIAL, UNRELENTING STORM THAT ONLY SHE SAW. IT WAS OFTEN LONELY AND BLEAK. AND NOW IT WAS FRIGHTENING: SHE COULDN’T FIND HER SON…
Bonus: This is just the beginning. You’ll see more enhanced stories like this on 5280.com in 2014.
Follow senior editor/digital editor Natasha Gardner on Twitter.