The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By Bruce Petersen
For the Courier 

Mental Health Wellness Walk Approaches


Paul Tweten / For the Courier

Commissioner Bruce Peterson (l) and Mayor Becky Erickson (r) are donning the #curestigma hats which promote awareness about mental illness. The "Stop the Stigma" walk is Saturday, May 12, with the starting point at the Valley Event Center at 10 a.m.

Local mental health wellness advocates are invited to be a part of the very first Valley County Mental Health Awareness Walk, which will take place in Glasgow on Saturday, May 12, at 10 a.m. Supporters will gather at the Valley Event Center to hear a couple of brief presentations, receive a colorful messaged baseball cap, take a brief trek through town, and then be asked to produce an idea or two as to how we can stop the stigma often attached to behavioral health issues.

Studies show that stigma very often causes those who have a mental illness to not seek help. If all traces of stigma are removed it is fact that the mentally ill will more aggressively seek help, future costs and problems will be prevented, and a productive citizen will continue to be productive. Stigma can seriously delay getting help. The primary goal of the walk is to stop this stigma.

The "Stop the Stigma" walk is an invitation for people to take just one hour to show support, gather knowledge and help educate people about mental health wellness. Participants will be encouraged to be a model for unconditional acceptance of people affected by mental health conditions.

The event is an effort by the mental health committee of the Valley CARE Coalition. The Coalition is a collaboration between FMDH, Glasgow Police Department, Valley County Sheriffs, Eastern Montana Community Mental Health Center and Valley County Public Health. The coalition was organized in response to community surveys in the spring of 2016, which showed that the most prevalent health concerns of Valley County residents are mental health, drug and alcohol abuse, heart disease and physical wellness.

CARE Coalition responses to the survey listed problems include: student recorded PSAs; Under the Big Sky radio appearances; a mental health information booth at the county fair; facilitating a stigma survey to students and the community; provide mental health first aid training; coordinated and invited the community to suicide prevention presentations; participated in the Homecoming parade with a parade float; had a tobacco and teenage drinking prevention fair booth; faciliated the Great American Smoke Out, a tobacco free teen movie night; participated in a food bank food preparation project; obtained a prescription drug incinerator; currently working on providing walking paths and the installation of a safe cross walk by high school; provided a drunk goggles demonstration; helped with the Glow Walk; and attended the BACI Institute Action training.

The Awareness walk hopes to help develop an attitude toward mental illness that is the same as we have about people with physical problems. We need to recognize that everyone is subject to illness, be it mental or physical, and for a person's wellness it is vital to acknowledge the problem and then address the problem, be it physical or mental. Early detection of illness is important and studies show that addressing mental health issues is often delayed or ignored because the affected person fears the stigma sometimes associated with mental issues.

Statistics show that over one in five families have first-hand experience with behavioral health problems and yet there remains, in some corners of our culture, a feeling that those issues are not a treatable condition. Mental health problems can be overcome and solved. The first step is to get help. We need to remove all barriers to taking that first step, so there is need to remove the stigma barrier.

There is increased cost with any delay in treating cancer, a broken limb, an infected wound or a mental illness. Our community shows little delay in getting help for physical problems. The goal of the walk is to have the same be said of mental problems. Just as consequences of untreated human physical problems can result in loss of a productive person, be very costly, and cause heartache for family members, so the very same can be said for behavioral problems.

Our society shows little delay in treating cancer, a broken limb or an infected wound but, because of stigma, mental illness is often not treated. Sometimes illness, mental or physical, cannot be treated but we need to create a culture that allows and encourages the best most effective treatment. Knocking down stigma feelings vastly increases chances of having people recover and continue, or return, to be productive students and citizens.

Stigma is treatable, 100 percent treatable. The prescription is compassion, empathy and understanding. The goal of the walk is to spread the word, and be the model, of acceptance for persons who have mental illness.It takes courage to face problems, so be a person who supports those who are gathering their courage. Spend an hour, take a walk and help grow the message and grow our community.

Valley CARE Coalition encourages your participation in the May 12, "Stop the Stigma" walk. No cost, just show up at 10 a.m., at the Valley Event Center.


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