Jason DeShaw and Superintendent Arntzen Partner to Bring Message of Hope to Montana Students
Helena, MT —There is hope and there is help.
That’s the message national award-winning speaker and country singer Jason DeShaw is imparting on the Montana Schools Tour. The tour reached 11 schools last fall and begins again this month. It is in collaboration with State Superintendent Elsie Arntzen. The 2018 tour includes eight school-wide events with sponsorship support, making the presentations free of charge to Montana schools. These presentations aim to give students and educators a better understanding of mental illness, addiction, and suicide.
Mental illness and substance abuse are epidemics in Montana, resulting in one of the highest suicide rates in the nation. Many people face their struggles alone, afraid to speak to others about their experiences. Open communication can have a positive effect on reducing stigma and encouraging individuals who are not in good mental health to seek help.
Jason DeShaw, 36, was born and raised in Montana and his early influences were John Wayne and Johnny Cash. He wrote his first song on a John Deere tractor and became a professional singer/songwriter at age 21. For a decade he performed throughout North America and Europe singing original country music. In 2010, his life came to a crossroads when he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and alcoholism.
Since then, DeShaw has advocated for mental health and addiction recovery as both a speaker and a singer. His presentation, Serenity in the Storm, combines the universal language of music with a powerful message of hope. It humanizes mental illness and replaces fear with understanding. This journey to help others has taken him from five performances at the forensic unit of our state psychiatric hospital to a 2017 presentation in the lecture halls of Harvard.
Jason DeShaw received the 2014 Champions Award in Washington D.C. from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) recognizing an individual with a mental illness who reduces stigma by “exhibiting courage, leadership and service on behalf of all people living with mental illness.”
Superintendent Arntzen has made mental health awareness and suicide prevention key initiatives of her administration at the Office of Public Instruction.
“I am proud to be partnering with Jason to bring a message of hope to students across Montana,” Arntzen said. “Too many young Montanans have had their lives cut short by suicide. As a state, we can and must do better to provide our students with hope.”
The Montana Schools Tour is presented by the Montana Office of Public Instruction, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana, and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Foundation. Local sponsors are the Gilhousen Family Foundation and the Center for Mental Health Research & Recovery at Montana State University. The tour is supported by NAMI Montana and RealizeHope.
Feb 20 - Bozeman High School – 10:00 a.m.
March 19 - Montana Association of School Superintendents – 11:45 a.m., Helena Radisson
March 22 - Hamilton School - Co-op 2 schools on one day
9:30a.m. Grades 11 & 12/Hamilton & Corvallis
1:30 p.m. Grades 9 & 10
April 18 – Browning High School – 10:00 a.m.
April 19 – Libby High School – 1:00 p.m.
April 25 - Lame Deer High School – 1:30 p.m.
Bozeman Parent event – TBD
Short documentary film on Jason DeShaw:
Executive Agent, Legendary Artists
Director of Communications, OPI