Upcoming mental health fair promotes awareness, resources

Shayne Mazur

Aiming to promote mental health awareness and provide resources to the community, the Big Horn County Citizens for Economic Development (BCED) will host a Mental Health Awareness and Fitness Fair Saturday, March 11 from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Shell Community Hall. 

There is no admission fee and a free lunch is included.

The event will feature resources from local vendors and a panel discussion consisting of mental health professionals, fitness instructors and visiting speakers who will share their lived experiences and expertise. 

“What we’re talking about is mental fitness, mental wellness,” said Stan Flitner, a BCED member credited for the event’s inception. “I think mental fitness is like physical fitness. You can’t have one without the other. Without mental health, there is no health. It’s a balance between physical and mental, and I think we’ve lost track and left mental fitness behind.”

Flitner was inspired to promote mental health in the community after attending the 2022 Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo where riders, who often wear specific colors to support each season’s charity efforts, sported yellow armbands in honor of suicide awareness and prevention.

“They used a pickup man as an example,” Flitner said. “So if you see someone who’s kind of down, you can be a pickup man, or you can be picked up by a pickup man. It dawned on me that maybe we should make mental health as acceptable as breast cancer so people aren’t afraid of it or afraid to talk about it.”

Close to several individuals who’ve contended with and lost loved ones to mental health struggles, Flitner suggested putting on a mental fitness fair to destigmatize talking about mental health issues, recalling it was once taboo to talk about breast cancer. The BCED board formed a committee in December to organize the event, which gained traction when local experts expressed an interest in speaking.

As with a rodeo pickup man, who plays the important role of assisting riders and increasing their safety, Flitner hopes the event will help individuals recognize when someone is going through a mental crisis. 

“Identify things like that…we might be able to help keep someone from committing suicide,” he said.

If the fair is a success, BCED hopes to send it around the Bighorn Basin to benefit other communities.

“If we get enough people there to critique it, and…if there’s enough interest, then our committee is ready to help take that around.”

Organizers ask that those interested in attending the event register online to reserve their spot and free lunch. Visit eventbrite.com, type Mental Health Awareness and Fitness Fair into the search bar and top options will provide the Shell Community Hall event.

The Mental Health Awareness and Fitness Fair is sponsored by BCED, Big Horn County Prevention Alliance, The Wyoming LifeLine and Big Horn Basin Counseling Services. For more information or to participate as a resource vendor, contact Lisa Kunkel at (307) 765-4564.