GREAT FALLS — When fighting the mental health epidemic in the United States, it's all hands on deck. When someone close to us struggles, stepping up to the plate to ensure they get the care they need is vital.
"I think we're starting to take mental health a little more seriously in Montana," said Nick Henry, a mental health advocate and former social worker.
Henry's passion for serving his community, particularly the youth, came from a stint working with the Montana Department of Family Services.
"To no critique on them by any means, but I started suffering from what some would call either secondary trauma or compassion fatigue, where I just felt like I was almost traumatized by the things that kiddos will go through."
That feeling is certainly no stranger to Nick and others working in his profession. Mental illness doesn't care who you are or how much money you make. At some point, everyone is affected by the grasp of mental illness, in themselves or by a friend or family member.
The goal is to get ahead of it, talk with someone close to you about what's going on and find positive ways to cope. As that confidant, you have to be receptive, open-minded, and willing to encourage the necessary means of treatment.
The National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline - 988 - is available for free and it's anonymous. A unique factor of the lifeline is that there is nearly a one-minute automated message when you call. If you are in crisis, do your best to stay on the line, and a certified crisis therapist will be on the other end. All call centers are local to your region and can understand some of the regional issues that may overtake your mind.
In the 2023 Montana Legislature, some resources were put into creating more opportunities for those who need services.
"House Bill 872, which Governor Gianforte signed...was a bipartisan bill that threw about $300 million into the mental health system in Montana. There were other bills that popped up as well. There's more funding for youth suicide prevention." Henry explained.
All of that is a major benefit to those in need of healthcare.
With all the money in the world, that doesn't clear the black cloud that hangs over the head of someone struggling with mental illness. Society has taken its toll on what Henry could agree, is one of the biggest wars humans are fighting, stigma.
That's why he is hosting a peaceful gathering on Tuesday, September 12, 2023, at 7 pm at the federal courthouse on the west side of the Central Avenue/First Avenue North bridge in Great Falls.
He says the goal is to bring together different groups of people for the common goal of promoting acceptance and community. It will only last an hour and he hopes as the event comes closer a speaker will come along to deliver a message.
Following a few words, a march will be led over the bridge, advocating a safe and encouraging environment.