Richland County Mental Health Local Advisory Council (LAC)
The Richland County Mental Health Local Advisory Council (LAC) is leading Eastern Montana in a movement toward reducing the stigma of mental and emotional help through Mental Health First Aid Training. Mental Health First Aid is a 12-hour program that teaches individuals how to identify and respond to the early signs and symptoms of emotional distress and improves mental health literacy.
Richland County has a high incidence of suicide and “not good” mental health, and has limited drug- and alcohol-free options for stress relief. We have an increasing population with broad and multifaceted needs and a limited capacity to treat patients. Our population is affected by a “cowboy” mentality—a deeply ingrained sense of self-sufficiency—and those who may be affected by depression, anxiety, mental disorders, or drug or alcohol addiction are wary about seeking help or discussing their concerns even with family and friends. The LAC believes that by starting the conversation about mental health with the community and through education about mental health conditions and treatments we can significantly reduce the stigma surrounding these issues.
The LAC received grant funding from the Eastern Service Area Authority Fund to put on several sessions of Mental Health First Aid. A target population who had consistent contact with those who may be at risk for emotional distress or mental illness was identified. This included hairstylists and salon workers, teachers, bartenders, oil field service workers, waitresses, social workers, law enforcement, emergency medical service workers, and hospital staff. Handwritten letters invited participants to one of three Mental Health First Aid sessions taught by a certified instructor.
The LAC has helped to train nearly 100 community members in Mental Health First Aid in Richland County and surrounding areas in Eastern Montana. Participants evaluated each training, noting that learning ways to communicate with those in emotional distress and learning methods of nonjudgmental listening were particularly important techniques garnered from this training. Participants felt appropriately equipped to help others with emotional distress and referral to treatment after completing the course.
Although Mental Health First Aid participants have used training techniques in various areas of our community, the most meaningful use was when trained individuals were called as first responders to help students with grief shortly after the murder of a beloved teacher and community member in January 2012.
Richland County Health Department
1201 West Holly St., Suite 1
Sidney, MT 59270