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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Department of Health and Human Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

Last Updated: 6/22/2012

SAMHSA’s Resource Center to Promote Acceptance,
Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with
Mental Health (ADS Center)


Richland County Mental Health Local Advisory Council (LAC)
Sidney, Montana

Brief Description
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.

Stephanie Ler
Richland County Health Department
1201 West Holly St., Suite 1
Sidney, MT 59270


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This Web site was developed under contract with the Office of Consumer Affairs in SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services. The views, opinions, and content provided on this Web site do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of SAMHSA or HHS. The resources listed in this Web site are not all-inclusive and inclusion on this Web site does not constitute an endorsement by SAMHSA or HHS.