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Conference keeps discussions on mental health going

by Daily Inter Lake
| March 10, 2022 12:00 AM

Attendees at last week’s Character Conference at Glacier High School witnessed a powerful display of courage from the night’s two guest speakers.

Former Glacier student Teigan Avery, and Glacier head football coach and teacher Grady Bennett each offered up their personal vulnerabilities and struggles with mental health to the packed auditorium — hoping that sharing their stories publicly might help others deal with their own difficulties without turning to suicide.

Kalispell Middle School teacher Noah Couser organized the important presentation, “Fighting For Our Lives, In An Age Of Anxiety, Depression, Loneliness and Suicide.” After two years off due to the pandemic, the Character Conference returned at a crucial time for the Flathead Valley.

Startling statistics show that Montana has the third-highest rate of suicide in the nation — a fact that hit home for many locals over the last few years. Eight Flathead Valley teens ages 15 to 19 died by suicide between May 2020 and September 2021.

While the discussion of suicide prevention and mental health awareness was at the forefront following those tragedies, we expressed hope in past editorials that those vital conversations wouldn’t fade with time. We applaud Couser for keeping the momentum behind these difficult conversations going through the Character Conference, and we thank Avery and Bennett for allowing others to hear and learn from their inner conflicts.

“You can have something really hard in your life and grow from it,” implored Avery, whose father died by suicide in late 2019. “You get to decide if you are going to embrace those smacks from life or use them as an opportunity to surprise yourself — to respond and to grow.”

As Couser wisely pointed out, there is no “quick fix” to the mental health crisis facing our youth. It’s going to take persistent messaging and education, and ample access to resources that are becoming more widely available.

“I do know that if every single one of us here commits to fighting for mental health in our homes, in our community ... in our schools and mostly in ourselves, we will see change in this valley,” Couser said at the conference.

Let’s keep that commitment going. Our valley’s youth are counting on it.

The entire 2022 Character Conference is online at youtube.com/c/NoahCouser