May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had seasons in my life when I have struggled. Life is unpredictable, people are complex, and how we react to any of this may—or may not—be our finest moments. Perhaps we’ve experienced a run of challenging events. Taken one at a time, we might have the fortitude to endure them with calm. But strung together, we come undone. Sometimes we survive a horrific trauma. We know we will never be the same and will battle for long stretches of time to become our new selves. I think most of us can relate to any of these scenarios. How we deal with them can be very different, but what is the same is that our ability to cope is all directed by our mental health.
I first started advocating and fundraising for mental health services nearly a decade ago through the Lee Carlson Center. Located in my neighborhood, they have been providing mental health services to children and families for over 30 years. They offer services in a variety of locations and ways: at their facility, in-home, the Bridgeview drop-in center, group therapy and through school programs throughout Anoka County, including Columbia Heights and Fridley, starting in elementary grades through high school.
I have built relationships with businesses, residents and non-profits to partner and support the Lee Carlson Center financially or with in-kind services. As a board member of the Mercy Hospital Foundation, I have been part of community engagement groups to discuss the new mental health and addiction services at Unity. I’ve written and been part of numerous communication campaigns about mental health to help educate the public. I am very pleased that my role in these efforts, along with others, has resulted in tens of thousands of dollars being raised for the Lee Carlson Center, better awareness of resources offered in our community, and more compassion for mental health issues.
What I’ve learned about mental health is that it needs consistent, long term advocacy and that it is fluid. None of us can divorce ourselves from it because we are emotional beings. Mental health is our state of mind in times of both strength and challenge, and this fluctuates. For those of us who have – or may – experience anxiety, depression, bi-polar, schizophrenia or other serious or persistent mental illness, living well is possible with the right services.
But getting the right services can be a long, hard journey. Anoka County Commissioners are responsible for providing a wide array of mental health services and resources to adults and children. I have the experience to build coalitions, the communication skills to promote awareness and resources, and, maybe more importantly, I have the passion to provide consistent, long term advocacy for our community because I too understand what it means to struggle.
Life is unpredictable. People are complex. With the right mental health services and compassion, we can have our finest moment in times of challenge.