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LAC discusses PSAs, mental health directory progress


Last updated 5/11/2021 at 11:23am

The Hill County Behavioral Health Local Advisory Council discussed Monday public service announcements to raise awareness about and to normalize mental health issues.

LAC members have spoken in previous meetings about making PSAs that can play around town in audio form, or in video form online, letting local people who struggle with mental health issues tell their stories of how they got help in order to normalize the issue.

LAC Chair Andi Daniel said she is looking for people willing to share their stories or expertise in the field of mental and behavioral health care and be interviewed.

Daniel said she wants to focus on local people, and has constructed posters that can be placed around town and on social media advertising the opportunity.

LAC Treasurer Darlene Sellers brought up the issue of how to handle interviews given by young people and gaining their consent to broadcast them. She said she didn’t want to have a young person give their permission to broadcast their stories in a way that they might regret later.

She said because this is a local project in such a small community, she’s afraid identifying participants may be a bit too easy.

She suggested that testimony should be restricted to people 18 and older, but LAC Vice-Chair Amber Spring disagreed.

She said many young people struggle with mental health, and they are an important audience to reach since so many of them never reach out for assistance.

“For that age group, I feel like it’s even more important to normalize that it’s OK to ask for help, that there are other people who think and feel the way they do,” Spring said.

Council members discussed the possibility of just using audio from young participants and playing it over other footage, or of having actors read their stories to protect their identities but no immediate decisions were made.

Daniel presented the current state of an online directory of mental health professionals or organizations LAC has been working on as a plug-in for its website and council members said they were impressed with how good it looks.

Daniel said most of the directory’s structure is complete and now they are primarily looking to fill it.

Spring said the directory can host information on local mental health professionals including their credentials, experience and qualifications, specialties, language proficiencies etc.

Sellers questioned whether the directory should display individual professionals instead of the organizations they work for.

Spring said, based on her experience making referrals, she thinks people would want to know that information but Sellers expressed concern that that could expose the LAC to lawsuits if someone in the directory commits malpractice.

“I don’t want to be part of this executive board, this council, being sued because we referred them to someone that committed malpractice,” she said.

Hill County Youth Reporting Center Coordinator Matt Erdel said the directory would not be a referral, but Sellers said the directory should make very clear that it is not a recommendation so as to avoiding legal trouble and council members agreed to have a lawyer examine the matter.

Spring told the board about April’s suicide awareness walk organized by Montana State University’s Sweetgrass Society in collaboration with the Little River Institute and Northern’s Healthy Lifestyle Advocates.

She said she thinks Sweetgrass Society President Aryn Longknife-Jake, who’s been assisting the LAC in their projects and was a driving force behind the walk as well as one of its speakers, did a fantastic job, and she’s very proud of how well it went.

She said Longknife-Jake recently graduated but is committed to continuing her work with the LAC.

National Alliance on Mental Illness Havre President Crystal Laufer said NAMI’s Havre office will be closed Thursday and Friday in order to hold two new classes; Peer-to-Peer and Connections.

She said the former is educational for people struggling with mental health, how to deal with it and interact with others. She said even she learned new things participating in the class.

“You learn a lot about yourselves,” she said.

The second of these classes is closer to a support group, she said.

“We’re really excited about those,” Laufer said.

She also talked about the organization’s annual walk and said a committee has been assigned to handle the preparations.

She said NAMI’s Taco Crunch, held last Thursday, went very well if the responses were anything to go by and they are planning a barbecue and silent auction May 22 in front of the 305 Building on Third Avenue, which houses NAMI’s office, to raise money for the organization.

Laufer said they will be raffling off bikes at the event and will have live music.


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