A newly formed coalition on community mental health awareness hosted a public event on Sunday evening, September 25th in the high school gymnasium. The event was well attended and featured guest speakers that covered several topics related to the group’s mission statement, “Together, discovering and preserving the balance of family time within the changing seasons of life to promote healthy spiritual and mental wellbeing”. Partners in the presentation were St. Luke Lutheran Church, Holy Trinity Catholic Church, St. John’s Lutheran Church and School, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI SE MN), and the Goodhue County Mental Health Coalition.
Father McCabe from Holy Trinity Catholic Church noticed a concerning trend in his parish. Students were missing worship and instruction on Sunday morning and Wednesday afternoon/evening because of extracurricular activities. He mentioned this to Pastor Hanson from St. Luke’s who had seen a similar problem in the community he served in Washington State before coming to Goodhue. The two were soon joined by St. John’s Pastor Robbert and a few community members who then formed the coalition and invited Superintendent, Evan Gough to offer input from the public school’s perspective. Gough has been a valuable resource to explain rationale from the school’s perspective. Some of the conflict was a referee shortage coming out of COVID and a need to schedule activities this year on Wednesdays.
One of the main goals of creating this coalition is to keep Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings free for religious instruction and/or Family time. This is not to say that school and social activities are not important but youth also need to step back from these demands. Today’s use of cell phones and social media can contribute to a never-ending barrage of pressure to participate or no escape from bullying.
51% of Goodhue County residents responding to a recent survey said they felt their mental health had become worse since COVID. In Father McCabe’s opening greeting at the forum he stated, “We want to get people together to talk about this. We want to work through this together”. Community faith leaders know there is a correlation between mental and spiritual health. Regular experiences with positive spirituality have been scientifically proven to decrease psychological distress with prayer increasing dopamine and melatonin release and subduing cortisol, the stress hormone. The Center for Disease Control identifies positive spirituality as a protective factor against suicide.
Maggie Cichosz, Goodhue County Mental Health Coalition Community Engagement Specialist presented facts gathered from a survey of 5th, 8th, 9th and 11th grade students. 12% of Goodhue County students seriously considered suicide in 2019 and an average of 7 complete this act each year. The county has seen an increase in the number of days people report feeling mentally unhealthy from 4 out of 30 days up to 9 out of 30 days in the lower income population. In 2021, 81 people were committed due to mental health issues, up from 47 in 2020.
Cichosz reported that people often delay seeking help for mental healthcare. They may not see it as serious enough to justify the costs or find the time due to other life commitments. It can also be difficult to find access to help with a shortage of professionals and a long wait time for appointments. Pastor Hanson concurred that this was an ongoing problem in his former Sammamish, Washington community. He also recognized the affluence of the area as a risk factor for anxiety and pressure to excel. He recommended two books, Hurt 2.0: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers by Chap Clark and The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids by Madeline Levine for further understanding of the issues facing today’s youth.
Cichosz encourages social connections and suggests reaching out and offering a hand to anyone, especially youth who need extra adult guidance in their lives. This is in line with the new coalition’s objective to connect youth and families with mentors to support mental and spiritual health. They have partnered with Goodhue County Health and Human Services to provide resources for education, early intervention, treatment, and community support services. Another resource is NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness affiliate in Rochester (www.namisemn.org).
Anita Otterness, a former employee and current volunteer with NAMI, spoke about the non-profit’s recent walk that raised $80,000.00 to support their programs which include law enforcement training, support groups, a crisis center in Rochester and working with other organizations. She touched on recommendations for eight dimensions of wellness to achieve a higher quality of life and total well-being. This information can be found at: https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma16-4957.pdf.
Those attending the September forum were greeted with treats and an array of useful pamphlets and an opportunity to ask the providers and panel members questions. Door prizes dubbed “Four baskets of Jesus’ Love” were awarded at the end and the evening concluded with final remarks and a blessing by Pastor Robbert.
The Community Heath Awareness Coalition is an ongoing and growing effort and welcomes anyone from the community to come to their next planning meeting, Sunday October 30th at 6:30 pm at St. Luke’s Church. For more information, contact Pastor Eric Hanson at 612-834-2149.
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