Community Organizations Host Mental Health Forum

Community+Organizations+Host+Mental+Health+Forum

Jaydin Bollmann, Media Staff

Mental illnesses are as common as silver cars.

With Covid-19, many people’s mental health took a hard hit. Community organizations like St. Francis Area Schools, Anoka County Library, and Anoka County recently held a virtual event to bring awareness to the situation.

Lisa Rahn, the Community Education Director for St. Francis Area schools, displayed her passion about the subject of mental health and hopes to reduce the stigma regarding the topic. She hosted the presentation and talked about personal effects mental health  had in her life. She wants people to know it’s okay to talk about mental health, and this presentation was one step toward that.

To begin the forum, attendees were asked to picture what kind of images are used  in society to portray people experiencing a mental illness. People typed answers in the chat.  “They’re crazy”,  “Withdrawn”, “Unsuccessful” and more negative stereotypes. In reality, a slide appeared that showed people of all ages, races, genders, careers and backgrounds experience mental illness.

One especially effective illustration about mental health stereotypes came from asking audience members to list terms associated with mental health patients versus people experiencing cancer. The contrast was stark. Cancer patients were called “brave”, “determined”, “tough” and “fighter” while mental health patients were labeled “crazy”, “lazy”, “goofy”, “loony” and “psycho.”

“We are taught as children about illness like colds, broken bones, or surgeries,” stated an IMPACT survey respondent from 2018, “but mental illness isn’t discussed.”

“We are taught as children about illness like colds, broken bones, or surgeries,” stated an IMPACT survey respondent from 2018, “but mental illness isn’t discussed.”

The organizations hosting the event believe that bringing mental health to the stage front is one step in the right direction. They explained that keeping silent about mental health can have a negative effect on life.

“It often leads to people begin ashamed about having a mental illness or a family member’s mental illness, and it causes most of us to wait an average of 10 years before seeking treatment,” said Rahn.

In that 10 years, people experience such effects as isolation, loss of employment, legal issues, and just overall negative outcomes.

” The highest drop out rate in school is with youth who have mental illness,” said Rahn.  “People with untreated mental illnesses end up in our criminal justice system and last year over 700 people died due to suicide in Minnesota.”

According to the presentation mental illness is more common than diabetes, yet it is looked upon differently. One in five adults will experience a mental illness, while one in eight will have diabetes.

“Mental illness should be discussed like diabetes,” said an IMPACT survey respondent from 2018. “It needs to be seen as a ‘normal’ illness.”

If you are suffering from mental illness, know you’re not alone and that there are many resources you can use to get help. A great resource is NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), which you may reach by going to NAMIhelps.org. You could listen to the Tremendous Upside podcast, or visit MakeItOK.org for tips on talking about mental illnesses.

Other important resources would be Crisis lines, by texting MN to 741 741 you can get in touch with someone to help. You can talk to your doctor, or even call 911. Local resources would be the Anoka County Mobile Crisis Response, which you can call at 763-755-3801, the Anoka County Library has resources, and you can call the Mental Health Helpline at 1-800-862-1799

 

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