Community members filled the Dawson County High School Auditorium in Glendive, Montana on January 2nd.  The “Stronger Together Community Forum” was created to address growing mental health concerns.  It is expected to be the first in a series of discussions to help address topics like chemical dependence, suicide, bullying, and depression.

The forum was facilitated by Glendive Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Schreibeis and national youth speaker and bullying prevention specialist Jeff Veley.  Prior to the evening forum, Veley had facilitated a professional development training entitled “Empowering Students and Improving Campus Culture” at Glendive.  Together, the two provided information on mental health issues impacting youth both locally and across the nation.Stronger Together Poster

Veley took the stage to share the increase in bullying and anxiety issues nationwide and offered free resources for parents.   He shared the importance of teaching coping skills for suicide prevention.  Focusing more closely on Montana and the local area, Schreibeis candidly shared the challenges that he sees educators and kids face everyday.  He shared that schools are facing a dramatic increase in students with complex mental health issues.  In addition, more students are qualifying for special education programming due to behavioral diagnoses.  While mental health impacts students, schools are not mental health institutions.  Despite increased training and connecting with kids, the needs sometimes outweigh the resources.

Community members joined were invited to ask questions anonymously, via text.  Once received, the submissions were displayed on the auditorium screen for all to see and respond to.  Several attendees raised their hands, offering resources and building connections with those across the aisle.  Those in attendance included school officials, clergy, therapists, law enforcement, and coalition leaders.  The questions and answers are being compiled into a working document to further conversation and will be distributed to those who signed up.