The Leading Edge: Hope - a message from Chantel Schieffer
March 31, 2022
May 31, 2022

The Judith Mountains draped with a field of round bales of hay near Lewistown, Montana.


Message from President/CEO Chantel Schieffer

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I desperately wish we talked more about this as a society. I am making an invitation to that conversation because as leaders we have a responsibility to end the stigma. It is time.

When I was seventeen, my father had a very public mental health crisis that forever changed the trajectory of my life and made me an overnight advocate for anyone who suffers from mental illness. As I started to understand more, I was shocked to learn the high numbers of those – particularly here at home – who silently suffer from this invisible disease.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 163,000 Montanans reported having a mental health condition in 2021. In that same year, over 35% of Montanans reported symptoms of anxiety and depression. For the past thirty years, our state consistently ranks in the top five for the highest rate of suicide deaths in the nation. This is one of the biggest issues facing Montana today, and one that consistently arises in Leadership Montana classrooms as we discuss challenges and opportunities in our communities.

Here is my invitation as we enter this month of Mental Health Awareness.

  • Listen to your people. Now more than ever, we must make time and space to check in with those in our circle – employees, colleagues, friends, family, community, and everyone we know. This also means listening to and checking in on yourself.
  • Learn about mental illness and the many ways it shows up in overt and covert ways. Take a mental health first aid class so you can recognize the signs and learn ways to help someone in crisis.
  • Lead in your sphere of influence to be a part of ending the stigma. Normalize open dialogue about mental wellness as much as physical health. If it feels safe, and you have your own mental health challenges, talking about your experiences can build trust and resilience.

There are many other important steps that need to be taken to truly end the stigma, but let us please start with what we, as individuals, can impact. We can do more than we may believe.

Be well and lead well,

Chantel M. Schieffer
President & CEO
Class of 2010, Masters 2019