Local Groups and County Agencies Will Recognize Mental Health Awareness Month by Spreading Gratitude and Joy
May 11, 2022
Millions of Americans face the reality of living with mental, emotional, or behavioral health concerns. During May, which has been designated National Mental Health Awareness Month, the Blaine County Health Department (BCHD) has joined forces with several other entities and agencies to raise awareness about mental health. With a Kindness Rocks initiative and several other projects on the horizon, these groups hope to provide support, educate the public so as to reduce stigma surrounding mental health issues, and advocate for policies that support not only people with mental challenges but their families as well.
The other programs involved in this advocacy effort are MSU Extension Blaine County, Youth Court Services, Disaster and Emergency Services, and the Local Advisory Council for Mental Health (LAC). Leaders in each of these groups and agencies are further partnering with youth organizations in the area to spread the message about the importance of self-care and community resilience.
"This is a collaborative effort, a partnership that we're all invested in since it affects us all," stated Haley Velk, Emergency Manager and LAC Secretary. "So, we have invited the help of the Young Adult Volunteers, the JUMP youth group, the 4-H Cloverbuds, the SONshine Wednesday Church School, and even the residents at the Sweet Memorial Nursing Home."
In preparation for May's awareness campaign, everyone involved has been painting rocks. According to Public Health Nurse, Valerie Beck, several communities across the globe are participating in a movement centered around the idea of painting rocks with uplifting messages or just spreading joy with art. "We saw no need to reinvent the wheel, so we're borrowing this idea as a way to inspire others, to spread the message that kindness rocks, and to share the importance of extending joy."
These Blaine County leaders are joining the national movement that encourages people to leave rocks painted with inspiring messages or with colorful imagery along the path of life. For their part, the groups will be hiding rocks in four county communities: Chinook, Harlem, Turner, and Zurich. Among those hidden, some will be designated 'prize rocks.' These will be marked on the underside with the BCHD phone number (406-357-2345). Finders should call to receive directions for prize pickup. These prizes, according to Velk, will all promote self-care.
"We'd also like people to take a picture of their rocks and upload them to social media, tagging them with the hash tag Kindness Rocks (#kindnessrocks)," Velk added. "Each town will have its own set of prizes."
To extend the reach of this positive messaging effort, those pictures can be uploaded on any one of the organization's Facebook pages or posted on a person's individual page.
After posting a photo, the finder can either keep the rock, re-hide it for someone else to encounter, or paint a new one for hiding. The idea is to keep the rock moving, further multiplying the pleasure principle behind the project.
Another May event will involve recognizing those individuals in Blaine County who were among the frontline workers during the pandemic. "We know there are MANY who never stopped working, who made the necessary adaptations immediately, and who served the greater good," commented Tina Mord, Chief Juvenile Probation Officer and Vice Chair of LAC. "We're just starting with educators and nurses since they have designated appreciation days in May."
According to Administrative Program Assistant, Abbigail Roth, "those two groups took a big hit, and we want them to know we are in their debt."
Although the BCHD and their partners will begin phase two of their initiative by acknowledging the work of teachers and nurses, this recognition will be an ongoing tribute as they share the message of gratitude throughout the coming year with all Blaine County workers. "Jeff Finley and his crew at Finley's Food Farm implemented measures to ensure that toilet paper and other necessities were available to as many people as possible," added Toni Collins, Case Investigator and Program Assistant. "Jeff searched the web to find what people needed to survive the lockdown. We want our local shop owners to know that they are appreciated."
In future endeavors, these community leaders will not only continue to spread positivity and gratitude but hope to host other programs such as a Mental Health Fair, Family Movie Night, and related activities that promote healthy family interactions. They will also leverage those programs that already have events in place and seek out partnerships.
During this-and every month-these four entities and the LAC-which represents Blaine County but is not an entity of the county-are focusing on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues, on spreading the message about taking care of one's self, and on sharing wellness and coping strategies. With their Kindness Rocks initiative and gestures of gratitude, these groups invite us to attend to the little things that call to us and evoke pleasure.
Various research studies show that a conscious and consistent effort to find reasons to smile and to be grateful can actually improve mental health and perhaps even change our brains to recognize gratitude more often.
Additionally during May, the MSU Extension Blaine County Lunch & Learn program will be offering thematically relevant topics. "Mindfulness for Stress Relief" is scheduled for May 9, "Estate Planning," will be featured on May 16, and May 23 will offer "Helpful Organization Tips to Simplify Your Everyday Life." Less stress as well as increased order and simplicity certainly sound like a formula for adding more joy!
Anyone interested in these topics can attend virtually or bring a lunch and join those gathered in the Triple E Meeting Room behind the Courthouse. All sessions will take place on Mondays from noon until 12:50 p.m. Those who choose to attend virtually should contact the Extension office by calling 406-357-3200 to sign up and receive the Zoom meeting link.