Submitted by Martha Robertson, Western Montana Area Health Education Center
Over a dozen Lincoln County high school students will attend Heads Up Camp on Thursday and Friday, April 19 and 20 at Cabinet Peaks Medical Center in Libby.
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 the field of 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. While at Heads Up Camp, attendees 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 eight-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 who are willing to dedicate their lives to helping people who struggle with mental health and socioeconomic difficulties. According to 2014 data compiled by the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA), only 25.5 percent of mental health needs are being met across Montana. Currently the state has 79 designated Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) in mental health, with the highest HPSA scores concentrated predominantly on reservations. Additionally, Montana has been ranked in the top five for completed suicides in the past 40 years, and ninety percent of those have been linked to psychiatric disorders including mood disorders and substance abuse disorders.
The administration and staff of Cabinet Peaks Medical Center is well aware of how this issue has impacted Montana’s rural communities.
Bruce Whitfield, Cabinet Peaks CEO, understands the struggle to provide accessible behavioral health services in a rural community and says their facility is anxious to offer the Heads Up program. “This is a hot issue, not just for Libby, but for the entire state,” Whitfield says. “If we can plant the seeds early and give students exposure to these behavioral health pathways, we may be able solve part of the problem.”
Unique features of the Libby Heads Up Camp will include a behavioral healthcare career panel, a trauma-informed round table discussion, a presentation and therapy dog training mini workshop from Karen Duty of Hellroaring Kennels in Polson, a presentation from Micah Clark of Camp Patriot, and various other presentations covering nutrition, physiology, and meditation. More information is available online at, http://www.wmtahec.org/K-12/basepage1.php, or by calling Martha Robertson, at 406-243-4746.