March 17, 2017
Beaverhead County High School students got an opportunity this week to help improve mental health awareness in their community.
The Dillon community held its very first Heads Up Behavioral Health Camp on March 16th and 17th, with 10 students from Beaverhead County High School attending a series of presentations and workshops geared toward awareness of and advocacy for mental health. The two-day event took place at the University of Montana Western campus and was put together by Natascha Robinson, the director of the South Central Montana Area Health Education Center, and Montana Western’s outreach coordinator, Bethanie Wharton.
The high school students, ranging from freshmen to seniors, were sponsored by scholarships from community partners to attend Heads Up. They were treated to presentations on resiliency and bullying by Montana Western counselor Jerry Girard and several Montana Western students, as well as lectures on addiction and substance abuse, patient evaluation, and yoga and relaxation.
Additionally, the students underwent an 8-hour Youth Mental Health First Aid Training course split over the two days of the camp, in which they learned about various mental health issues and how to assess and assist people who suffer from mental illness. Informational videos were shown, and the students received hands-on experience in healthcare by participating in role-playing activities.
The first day of the camp ended with a dinner-social where the students could meet with healthcare professionals and explore their career interests in the field. Meagan Roberts, a sophomore at BCHS, intends to pursue a career as a child psychiatrist. “When I was younger, one of my friends had suicidal tendencies and I helped them through it. It inspired me to follow this path,” she said.
Another sophomore, Izzi Simonsen, wants to earn a doctoral degree in social work like her mother. “It’s the field to be in for people who want to make a difference,” she said. “It’s an incredible opportunity to get this kind of background knowledge.”
The Heads Up Behavioral Health Camp culminated with the students giving sustainability presentations, which they’d been working on throughout the two days. “The goal for this camp is to get the students to work with us and the community to identify strengths and weaknesses in Beaverhead County in regards to mental health care, and come up with ideas for improvement and sustainability,” Robinson said. Some of the projects the students came up with included a community support group and a charity run to promote mental health awareness, the proceeds from which would go to support healthcare organizations.