MISSOULA – Twenty-five Lake County high school students will attend western Montana’s first Heads Up Camp on Thursday and Friday, Oct. 19-20, at St. Luke Community Healthcare in Ronan.
Heads Up Camp, coordinated by the Western Montana Area Health Education Center at the University of Montana, is designed for students interested in careers in behavioral health. Students will explore a variety of career paths, including social work, counseling, psychology, psychiatry, behavioral health aides and other positions in the field. Students will learn about key topics in behavioral health, including stress, abuse, addiction, bullying, suicide and mental health.
In addition to career exploration, students will have the opportunity to earn a Youth Mental Health First Aid certificate, which requires completion of an 8-hour training course offered by the Montana Office of Public Instruction through collaboration with Youth Dynamics. Youth Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based training program that helps individuals and communities better understand mental health and respond appropriately to adolescents who may be experiencing a mental health issue.
Rural communities are in desperate need of passionate individuals willing to dedicate their lives to helping people struggling with mental health and socioeconomic difficulties. According to 2014 date compiled by the Health Resources and Service Administration, only 25.5 percent of mental health needs are being met across Montana. The state now has 79 designated Health Professional Shortage Areas in mental health, with the highest HPSA scores concentrated predominantly on reservations. Montana has been ranked in the top five for completed suicides in the past 40 years. Ninety percent of completed suicides have been linked to psychiatric disorders, including mood disorders and substance abuse disorders.
The administration and staff of St. Luke Community Healthcare are well aware of how this issue has impacted the rural communities and reservations.
“We’ve seen far too many lives taken by suicide in our community, especially recently,” said St. Luke CEO Steve Todd. “It’s a tragedy all around and particularly in our youth. Sponsoring the Heads Up camp is just one of many things we are doing as a health care provider to address the issue.
“We all have a part to play in helping suicide prevention,” he continued. “Our youth may have the best chance to intervene with their peers when someone is in crisis. If we can get our students trained in mental health first aid and get them interested in career paths to serve in behavioral health roles in the future, then we can save lives. I am pleased we have students from every school in the valley participating. If we work together we can make a positive impact.”
More information is available online at http://www.wmtahec.org/K-12/basepage1.php or by calling Martha Robertson, Western Montana AHEC program coordinator, at 406-243-4746.