the campus library on a sunny day
Apr 27, 2023
Daily Inter Lake

Multiple Events Set for Mental Health Awareness Month

By Taylor Inman

A series of events in the Flathead Valley are focusing on mental health in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month in May.

Flathead County Mental Health Collaboration Specialist Jerramy Dear-Ruel said the area is experiencing a mental and behavioral health crisis, along with many other communities nationwide, so it’s important to take time to learn how to address the issue.

“It’s even more important now than ever before to pay attention to it, to make sure folks are getting the help they need if they’ve been diagnosed with suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety — the list can go on. It affects everyone in one way or another, so it’s important to be active in coming up with solutions,” Dear-Ruel said.

The events kick off with a talk from speaker Scott Erickson at Flathead Valley Community College on April 29, which runs from 5 to 8 p.m. Erickson uses humor, storytelling and visual arts as conversation starters on belonging, love, and life. The event aims to normalize the subject of mental health and create a springboard for further connection and understanding. The show is free to attend and recommended for ages 8 and up.

The Nate Chute Foundation is hosting a Youth Mental Health First Aid class at the Gateway Community Center on May 9, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. According to their website, the course is designed to teach how to help an adolescent who is experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or is in crisis. It’s primarily designed for adults who regularly interact with young people. The course introduces common mental health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development and teaches a five-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics covered will include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders and eating disorders.

An ice cream social will take place at The Raleigh House on May 11 from 3:30-5:30 p.m. The Raleigh House is a teen and adult outpatient rehab facility in Kalispell that offers counseling services among many other avenues for healing.

The National Alliance for Mental Illness will be hosting family support groups at the Gateway Community Center on the first Monday of every month from 6 to 7 p.m, as well as in Columbia Falls at St. Richard Catholic Church on the fourth Tuesday of every month at the same time. The support group provides family members with an opportunity to discuss the challenges of caring for or living with a loved one with mental illness. Registration and membership are not required to attend this support group — it is free to attend.

A Mental Health Symposium featuring panelists and keynote speakers will take place at the Gateway Community Center on May 18, from 5 to 8 p.m. A panelist of first responders will speak about what to do in crisis to prepare in the case of a mental health emergency.

Keynote speakers include Jeff Folsom, the director of policy and special projects for the Center for Children and Family Workforce at the University of Montana. He will be speaking about “family voice curious.” Meghan Peel, who is the Montana Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Mental Health bureau chief, will be speaking on priorities in children’s mental health.

Attendees will have the opportunity to connect with behavioral health providers and ask questions. The event will have free food and drinks, as well as art projects for kids to do while parents listen to speakers. It is free to attend.

On June 3, the National Alliance for Mental Illness Family and Friends Training takes place at the Gateway Community Center from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Similar to their family support groups, the training will inform people who have loved ones with a mental health condition on how to best support them. It also aims to be an opportunity where people in similar situations can connect and find support.

Local businesses throughout the valley will also be painting window displays with positive mental health messages. Contact Leanna Troesh at 808-283-3222 for more information about these events.