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Ask the Advocate: Where can I find information and resources specific to men’s mental health?

Meet Rick. He is a 49-year-old man living with depression. For years he has suffered in silence. He is not unlike many men who silently live with mental illness and do not reach out to ask for help. Recently, Rick reached out to Mental Health Minnesota. He wasn’t sure what he needed. He just needed the pain to stop. This simple but important step – reaching out – led Rick to the road to recovery and finally some relief.

I was able to direct Rick to the Face It Foundation located in the Twin Cities. This organization is dedicated to men’s mental health recovery. They offer support groups, one-on-one peer support, activities and an online chat. The foundation gives men the support they need to face depression and take control of their recovery. Rick called me back a few months later empowered by finally opening the door to treatment and support.

Which mental illnesses most commonly affect men?

Depression and anxiety disorders are the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses among adults in the U.S. Among men, depression is the most common mental illness – over 6 million men are affected by depression each year in the U.S.

More than four times as many men than women die by suicide in the U.S. Suicide is the seventh leading cause of death among men – over 35,000 men die by suicide in the U.S. each year. Risk factors can include social isolation, substance abuse, unemployment, trauma, and genetic predisposition. Research has also found that men are less likely than women to seek help for depression, substance abuse and stressful life events due to social norms, a reluctance to talk, and a tendency to downplay symptoms. (Source: Mental Health America)

While depression is the most common mental illness among men, it is important to remember that men can be affected by any mental health diagnosis. Over one million men in the U.S. are affected by bipolar disorder. Approximately one in five men develop alcohol dependency at some point in their lifetime.  You can read about the signs, symptoms, and prevalence of different mental health diagnoses here. If you are concerned about your mental health, taking an online screening is one of the first steps you can take to start getting help. Take our anonymous, online screening here.

Where can I find support if I’m struggling with my mental health, or if someone I love is struggling with their mental health?

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 and provides free and confidential support and crisis resources for people in distress. It can be reached by calling 1-800-273-8255.

Additionally, every county in Minnesota has a 24/7 crisis phone line. You can find your county’s crisis phone line here. Anyone in Minnesota can reach the Crisis Text Line and text with a crisis counselor by texting “MN” to 741741.

I live in a rural area and am having trouble finding mental health support. What can I do?

Minnesota has a farm and rural helpline that is available to farmers and rural residents. The helpline is funded by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and is free, confidential, and open 24/7. Counselors who answer calls are specifically trained to provide support to address the unique stresses that farmers and rural communities face. The helpline can be reached toll free at 833-600-2670.

Are there resources specifically available for men?

The Face It Foundation, where Rick found support, connects men with other men who have experienced living with a mental illness. They offer support groups, group activities, and an online support network.

Psychology Today has a search engine where you can search for therapists, psychiatrists, and support groups. You can filter your search using wide variety of key words, including men’s health.

Are there resources available for men in the LGBTQ community?

The Minnesota LGBTQ Directory is a website where you can search for providers who currently serve LGBTQ people, have knowledge of LGBTQ health disparities, and provide competent care to LGBTQ people.

The Trans Lifeline is a hotline dedicated to the well-being of transgender people. The Trans Lifeline can be reached at 877-565-8860.

 

If you are having trouble getting connected with resources and services, please call Mental Health Minnesota and ask to speak with a Peer Advocate.

Peers in Action: Patrick Rhone

June is Men’s Mental Health Month. In the U.S., over 6 million adult men are experiencing depression in any given year. Depression and other mental illnesses are often treatable, yet men are less likely than women to seek treatment for depression, substance abuse, and stressful life events.

This month, we interviewed Patrick Rhone, Mental Health Minnesota board member, mental illness survivor, and mental health advocate.

 Could you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

I’m a writer and technology consultant living in Saint Paul, MN with my wife, 10-year-old daughter, two dogs, and three cats. I’m also a mental illness (bipolar disorder) survivor of nearly 40 years.

In your experience, are there aspects of our culture that make it difficult for men who are struggling with their mental health to seek help? 

Yes. Many.

I don’t think it is any mystery that for most of the history of Western culture, the expectations that were placed upon men, especially by other men, were ones that were difficult to meet. We were expected to be brave, strong, not show fear, work hard, don’t complain, don’t ask for help, and especially don’t talk about your feelings. Also, especially, never admit a failing, feeling or fear.

While we have worked very hard in recent times to correct such thinking, I still think it is a lasting narrative that is as seductive as a reason as it is an excuse. Many mental illnesses, such as depression, thrive on good excuses for not wanting to get help.

I believe that because of these cultural and historical reasons, men are statistically far less likely to seek help. When they do, they are less likely to stick with it. On average, almost a hundred men a day die by suicide (around 35,000 a year). It’s a real problem.

Do you think peer-to-peer support – for example, men connecting with other men who have been in their shoes – could be an effective way to encourage men to reach out for help? 

Most definitely. And, I am aware such organizations exist and are doing great work. For instance, locally there is the Face It Foundation (https://www.faceitfoundation.org) who focus their support offerings specifically toward men. It started with a simple premise, just getting some guys together for breakfast to talk about this stuff. It’s a great approach because it’s not some formal support group. It’s some guys having pancakes at Perkins. It’s casual and men can let their guard down when they realize all the other guys around the table are facing this stuff too.

What are some things that everyone can do to work toward breaking the stigma that surrounds mental illness, and particularly the stigma that affects men who are experiencing mental illness? 

Well, I’m a writer. I believe that words mean things. Silly, I know. 🙂

But, seriously, we need to change the language we use surrounding this stuff. Most people don’t know that there used to be great fear and stigma around cancer. No one knew what caused it, it was spoken of in hushed tones, and people were expected to just stay home, waste away, and die. There was great shame if you got it.

Today, cancer is associated with words like bravery and courage. We fight cancer. We beat cancer. Those that do are cancer survivors. We fill the store shelves with pink stuff during awareness month and we celebrate those still among us. Such words change the way we perceive those who have cancer but also our funding and approach toward treatment and a cure. Not only that but the positive attitude has a direct, scientifically proven, effect on the chances of survival.

We need to do the same with mental illness. We need to stop speaking about mental illness sufferers and speak of mental illness survivors. Because mental illness can and does kill. Anyone who has a mental illness such as depression is fighting every day. Mental illness is something we can beat. Those who do are mental illness survivors.

If we can do this, if we can change the language and our cultural attitudes around this, it will help — men especially. It would turn something many view as shameful into a courageous battle. Maybe during mental health awareness month, we can fill the store shelves with green stuff and celebrate our survivors. This would change the funding and awareness. I can’t help but believe such a change in language and attitude would have an equally positive impact on the chances of survival too.

By: Patrick Rhone

Mental Health Minnesota Participates in National 5K Series

Mental Health Minnesota had the opportunity in May to participate in a national 5K series to increase awareness of mental health concerns around the country.

The event was part of a national effort to raise awareness and funds to support mental health programs, where local participants joined Dr. Adel Korkor as he ran a 5K in every state over 50 days.

“We were honored to be a part of Dr. Korkor’s work to raise awareness about mental health,” said Shannah Mulvihill, Mental Health Minnesota’s executive director.

Nearly 80 people participated in the first-time event, which was held at Lake Rebecca Park Reserve in the Delano area.

“So many people who attended the event brought their own story. For some it was about their own recovery, for some it was about struggling to find help for someone they loved,” said Mulvihill. “It’s our hope that events like this can encourage people to talk more about mental health and reach out for help when they need it.”

Learn more about the 5K series and Dr. Adel Korkor here.

Mental Health Minnesota receives grant for ‘Steps to Employment’ program

Mental Health Minnesota has received an $80,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services to support peer-to-peer groups for people living with a serious mental illness who are interested in seeking employment. The grant is part of nearly $950,000 recently awarded as a part of a new disability services innovations grants program to support people with disabilities in the community.

Approximately one in 17 people live with a serious mental illness, and for many, symptoms of their illness have made employment difficult or nearly impossible. In fact, the unemployment rate for people living with serious mental illness (SMI) is more than 80%. Many have goals related to employment, but barriers remain to securing and maintaining employment, as well as being successful in their employment goals in both the short and long term.

“We know that meaningful employment can play an incredibly important role in mental health recovery,” said Shannah Mulvihill, executive director. “We believe that additional assistance and resources as people living with serious mental illness enter the workforce could be instrumental in their success and ensure that they truly have an equal opportunity in employment.”

The “Steps to Employment” groups will provide a unique peer-to-peer approach to employment readiness, addressing topics such as establishing realistic goals, addressing barriers, stress management, self-care, working as part of a team, handling conflict, and more. The groups will be facilitated by Certified Peer Support Specialists, will be time-limited (eight hours total), and are intended to serve as a complement to other employment programs and services offered across the state. The program’s peer-to-peer approach will help ensure that a comfortable, safe environment exists for people seeking support from others, as well as some of the “soft skills” needed to ensure that they are truly successful in their work.

“We are lucky to have many employment programs across Minnesota for people living with disabilities, but there are very few opportunities for a peer-to-peer approach used in employment, especially related to mental health,” said Mulvihill. “Living with a serious mental illness creates unique challenges to successful employment, and who knows that better than those who have found a way to conquer those obstacles?”

Mental Health Minnesota will be seeking partnering organizations that serve clients who could benefit from this program. The groups will be offered at no-cost, given the grant support received. Please contact Kim Lutes, Mental Health Minnesota’s program manager, at kiml@mentalhealthmn.org for more information.

Peers in Action: Ryan Rasmussen

This month, we interviewed Ryan Rasmussen, who works as a Certified Peer Support Specialist. Ryan discusses how employment played a part in his recovery journey, and what led him to his decision to pursue a career as a Peer Support Specialist.

Ryan, what led you to pursue a career as a Certified Peer Support Specialist?

Several aspects of my life led me to the decision to become a Peer Support Specialist. Over the course of individual therapy work, my therapist suggested it could be a career path I might enjoy and be fulfilled in.

After looking into it, I decided that becoming a Peer Support Specialist would be a good recovery goal for myself, and further help me maintain my own recovery.

I also believed that I was capable of helping others with my own lived experiences of trauma, addiction, homelessness, and extreme poverty. Becoming a Peer Support Specialist provided an avenue for me to do that, and be a living message of hope for others.

How has employment played a role in your recovery process? Have there been things that are difficult about going back to work?

Employment has been a significant cornerstone of my recovery process. It has helped me feel that I am valuable within society, and enabled me to reach and obtain goals along the way, a crucial aspect of my own recovery. Initially in recovery, I worked on a clean and sober construction crew, in restaurants, and finally began my career as a Peer Support Specialist.

Through working my way up from part time work at a Warmline speaking to people living with mental illness over the phone, to working at a Community Support Program, I began to work my way up and reach significant goals along the way. Currently, I have full-time employment working with the homeless population. Each goal I have achieved on my journey through the employment process has strengthened my recovery and enabled me to become more engrained in the recovery process of the clients I work with. It has been incredibly rewarding to me to be able to be a positive influence on the communities I serve.

Although gratifying, the process of finding and maintaining employment has not been without obstacles for me. It has been hard to find a balance between building a career while also working to rebuild my personal life in recovery. Work can also be stressful, and can sometimes be a place where potential triggers exist. Maintaining a job with severe and persistent mental illness can be challenging, yet the rewards far outweigh the challenges I have encountered.

Do you have any advice for someone who is in recovery and considering going back to work?

Based on my own experience, people in recovery who are considering returning to work should be aware of the challenges or barriers that may exist, make a plan involving realistic goals related to employment, and seek support in whatever aspects they may struggle with during that process.

Support may include others in their life or even third-party organizations that help people get back into the workforce. If possible, I believe that people should wait until they are truly ready and have a strong foundation in their recovery.

What advice do you have for someone considering a career as a Certified Peer Support Specialist?

Being a Peer Support Specialist is a very fulfilling career path. If someone is considering pursuing this path, they should first research the process involved in becoming a Certified Peer Specialist, and have a strong desire to be willing to utilize their own lived experiences to help others.

Individuals interested in this career should ask themselves, “Do I want to get into a career that is primarily based around helping others with similar issues I have experienced?” If so, this may be a very positive, life-changing career for that person.

Ask the Advocate: Where Can I Find Employment Support?

You ask, our advocates answer. This month, Suzanne discusses the benefits of employment and how to find supportive employment services.

Priscilla called Mental Health Minnesota to speak with me about looking for a job, and returning to work after having spent so much time not working over the past decade. Not unlike others who are out of the workforce for a while, Priscilla had concerns about going back to work. Through a series of questions and answers we discussed what her goals were for employment and created a plan of action. She was interested in returning to work as a personal care attendant. She wanted to maintain her recovery. She preferred to not disclose her disability to her employer. She was interested in having more spending money but she did not want to lose her social security benefits or her health care insurance. We discussed how it would be possible for her work part time and still receive some economic benefits and for her medical assistance to continue.

I suggested she contact the nearest workforce center. At the workforce center Priscilla will have free access to classes, computers and counselors who can help her with the nuts and bolts of searching for jobs, writing her resume and cover letters, and learning how to interview for a job. She will be able to get direct feedback from her assigned counselor on how to “handle” the extended unemployment question. After our conversation, Priscilla felt more confident about the steps she needed to take to begin looking for employment.

What are some of the benefits of employment?

The benefits of employment are much more than simply money. These benefits include: 1)improved self esteem, 2) increased social and quality of life, 3) better control of symptoms, and 4) reduced substance abuse. In fact, studies have shown that working can actually improve your mental health helping to spur on recovery.

What kind of supportive employment services are available?

Anyone can use the workforce centers which are one stop shop locations. Most of the services are free. There are 13 workforce centers in the Twin Cities and 36 workforce centers in greater Minnesota. Each workforce center offers a wealth of self-help information on preparing for and finding jobs, computers you can use, and trained staff to assist.   Some workforce centers even have employment counselors who work specifically with people living with mental illness.

Click here to view a list of workforce centers in Minnesota.

My case manager suggested I receive IPS services. What is IPS?

Individual placement and support, or IPS, is an evidence based program that assists people living with serious mental illness to quickly seek and maintain employment. IPS is a team based program with a vocational rehabilitation counselor, employment specialist and mental health care provider. Your team will help guide you to “competitive employment” which is defined as employment in the community open to all others that pays a competitive wage. Once employed, the members on your team will help you to address issues that arise so that you have the support you need to maintain working.

How do I sign up for IPS Services?

You can receive a referral from your case manager. If you do not have a case manager then you will need a referral from a therapist or psychiatrist to the IPS community rehabilitation provider in your county. While all seven metro area counties have IPS programs, the program is not found in all counties in greater Minnesota.

 

If you need assistance in finding how to locate your IPS community rehab provider or how to access supportive employment services, please call Mental Health Minnesota at 651-493-6634 and ask to speak with a Peer Advocate.

 

 

 

 

Peers in Action: Mary Richards

This month, we interviewed Mary Richards, who leads a Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) group in St. Paul.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself, and what led you to begin volunteering as a support group leader?

I am a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) survivor. I had the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck 66 years ago when I was born, and I have dealt with the resulting brain injury all of my life. As an adult, I began to experience depression related to my TBI. I was in counseling for both my depression and brain injury, and my mental health provider suggested that I start attending support groups in addition to therapy.

In 1997, I began attending a Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) group in St. Louis Park. The facilitators of the group, Bobby and Sue, began to train some of the group members to become facilitators as well.

I became a DBSA group facilitator, and also completed a Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) support group facilitator training.

After I completed the trainings, I began filling in as the facilitator for the St. Louis Park group that I attended, and then I became one of the lead facilitators of a new DBSA support group in St. Paul.

Today, I also do data entry work, I’m president of a self-advocacy council, and I’m also on the TBI advisory council that advises the Department of Human Services. I was appointed to the TBI advisory council in 2014.

Wow, so you have been a support group leader for quite some time!

Yes, for just about 20 years – I started facilitating St. Paul DBSA group in the late 90s.

What do you think peer-to-peer support groups contribute to a person’s recovery? What is unique about the peer-to-peer model?

Well, a peer-led support group means that there are no professionals, such as psychiatrists or therapists, involved. During peer-to-peer support groups, we do not focus on giving advice. We just share our own personal experiences, and can relate to each other because we often experience similar symptoms. Even if members of the group do not have the same diagnosis, we can often relate to each other’s symptoms. For example, I can often relate to people who have experienced memory loss due to medication or ECT, because I experience memory loss from my brain injury.

We honor each person as an individual, are non-judgmental, do not analyze symptoms, and only give feedback or advice if a person specifically asks us. We are not trying to provide treatment, but rather to share what we are going through, and connect with each other on a personal level.

We also sometimes share resources that we have found to be helpful such as the Minnesota Warmline, county crisis lines, homelessness resources, and 211.

Has leading a support group contributed to your own recovery journey?

I would say yes, it has. It has helped me become an active member of my community and allowed me to give back to my community. Being social, having relationships, and building community is an important part of recovery. Being a support group leader has inspired me to volunteer in other ways and join other social groups.

I used to volunteer at the Humane Society combing cats. There is also a website called meetup.com that has given me all kinds of ideas for joining different groups. Through meetup.com, I joined a card club and a diabetes support group. I am also part of a brain injury support group.

The St. Paul DBSA support group has also led to other social meet ups. A member from the group started a “share and get out of the house” group that meets at Caribou Coffee in the evenings and people just sit and talk with each other. It’s a place to be together when the group doesn’t meet.

What advice do you have for someone who is thinking about starting a support group in their community?

I would suggest attending an existing support group or attending multiple support groups, just to get some experience watching how the other facilitators operate the groups. It is also important to attend support groups just to gain an understanding of how they work, and how each group’s guidelines work. When you start your own support group, establish the purpose of the group and outline the guidelines.

Mental Health Minnesota offers support group facilitator training if you are interested in starting a support group in your community.

Apply to volunteer as a support group leader here!

 

Ask the Advocate: How Can I Build a Support Network?

People who need people are the luckiest people in the world. – Barbara Streisand

 

You ask, our advocates answer. This month our peer advocate, Suzanne, discusses the importance of having a community support network.

 

A critical element of recovery is building a community to support us as we journey down this road of healing and restoration. A successful recovery requires us to connect and accept help from others. We cannot do recovery alone.

 

The federal government through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) has identified four dimensions that support a life in recovery. These four dimensions are health, home, purpose, and community. Today, I want to focus on community, which is defined as “having relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love and hope.”  Our network enables us to be supported in many different ways by many different people for many different needs.

 

Recently, I spoke with Sandy. She called the Peer Advocacy line feeling very lonely and bored with life. She asked what she could do to change this situation. Sandy is not unlike others who call our Warmline or Peer Advocacy line who feel too isolated. Reaching out to ask the question is the first step in creating community. So how could Sandy create her own community support network?

 

We first discussed whether she was interested in having social connections with other people recovering from a mental illness. I identified a drop-in center close to where she lived that she could check out. A drop-in center is place that people living with a mental illness can go to socialize and participate in activities such as book clubs or cooking classes. Many drop in centers also provide other types of community support services, such as housing support and employment support.

 

I asked her if she prefers connecting with others through similar interests? I told her about Meet Up, https://www.meetup.com, which is a large internet organization comprised of many different kinds of groups based on a shared interest, like playing board games or learning a new language. I said I knew this was a fast way to meet new people, because I have joined fun meetup groups, myself.

 

Next we discussed whether she was interested in working one day. I mentioned how having a structured life when you’re employed can help with loneliness and boredom, and to push forward recovery. We discussed how volunteering can be a bridge to employment. We discussed her interest in various causes that could serve as a basis for selecting a volunteer opportunity. I referred her to https://www.volunteermatch.org, which is a website that matches volunteers with organizations. They have opportunities for all kinds of causes.

 

And lastly, we discussed joining a support group. I discovered that she lives close to a Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) group, so I provided her with contact information. I also told her about Mental Health Minnesota’s peer-led Support Groups for Recovery and Wellness that are open to anyone who is experiencing a mental health struggle. I suggested online support groups if she is more comfortable connecting through the web. I also mentioned the Minnesota Warmline which provides social connection and support on the telephone.

 

After our conversation, Sandy felt some relief and hope. She is going address her loneliness and boredom by starting to build her community support network.

 

If you would like to talk about building your community support network, you can call Mental Health Minnesota at 651-493-6634, and schedule an appointment to speak with a Peer Advocate.

Mental Health Minnesota to offer online support groups

Mental Health Minnesota is expanding its support group program! Beginning in May, two peer-led Support Groups for Recovery and Wellness will be offered online. Online groups will meet every week and will be held on Tuesday evenings, beginning on May 8, from 7:00 – 8:30 PM and Saturday mornings, beginning on May 12, from 10:00 – 11:30 AM.

 

“Support groups can provide a wonderful opportunity for people to connect with others as they work on their recovery, and we are continuing to build out more and more groups as an organization,” said Shannah Mulvihill, executive director. “We are hoping that the addition of online groups will open up that opportunity to more people who may not be able to attend in person due to distance from a group, transportation, or other barriers to engaging with a group. It also acknowledges that a growing number of people prefer online options to connecting with others.”

 

Recovery and Wellness support groups are designed to foster an environment of inclusiveness and belonging. Group facilitators are peers – people who have personal experience living with a mental illness. Peer-to-peer support lends a unique connection, creates a safe space, and serves as a catalyst for hope.

 

“As a peer-led support group, not a therapy group, our goal is to share ideas and feelings. Our hope is that you will find our groups a safe place to learn and grow through shared experiences, mutual support and respect,” said Frank Dorsey, Support Group Program Coordinator.

 

All peer-led Support Groups for Recovery and Wellness are free and open to anyone who is experiencing a mental health struggle. Online support groups will require registration and be run via secure video conferencing software that is compatible with computers, tablets, and smartphones.

 

 

Mental Health Minnesota also offers in-person Support Groups for Recovery and Wellness, as well as Depression and Bipolar Alliance support groups. These groups are drop-in groups and do not require any registration.

 

Peers in Action: Kim Lutes

This month, we interviewed Kim Lutes, who was concerned about a proposed bill and took action. She recently testified against the bill at a Minnesota House of Representatives committee hearing.

Kim, why did you decide to testify at the Legislature?

There was a bill before the House of Representatives that would have made changes to civil commitment, including requiring law enforcement to take some people living with mental illness into custody if they missed their weekly doctor appointments.  As someone living with a mental health diagnosis, I knew that this type of heavy-handed approach to mental health care would not work, and that it would be in violation of people’s civil rights.  I knew that the reason I was able to move into recovery from my illness was because I had mental health providers who saw me as a person of integrity and built trusting relationships with me.  Knowing first hand how important it is to feel respected and supported by mental health providers, I felt that it was my duty as a citizen to speak out against this harmful bill.

What was it like to testify in front of your elected officials?

It was scary.  I had five minutes to say what I wanted to say.  I wrote my testimony out ahead of time and practiced it in front of the mirror.  But it was challenging, because legislators are not always careful about how they talk about issues related to mental illness.  The language some of them used was surprisingly antiquated and based on old stereotypes.  I hadn’t prepared myself for that, so I felt a bit offended at times.  But, I felt good about what I had to say because it came from my life experience.  I also felt good because merely by being there and sharing my expertise, I was challenging those old stereotypes.

Aren’t there advocates out there who speak on behalf of people living with mental illness?  Why didn’t you just let them do the work?

There are a lot of advocates at the Capitol trying to make sure that those of us who live with a mental health diagnosis get good care.  They are usually family members, friends or providers of mental health care.  I appreciate the work they do.  They are the people who were there for me when I was sick.  But, when it comes to truly understanding what it is like to live day to day with a mental illness, the people who are the true experts are the people who actually live with a mental illness.  We are the people who know first hand what works and what doesn’t.

Therefore, I felt that in order to make a good case against the bill, someone needed to talk about what it is actually like to live with a mental illness.  The unique perspective of someone living with mental illness is often missing in public conversation.

You say that the perspective of someone with lived experience is often missing?  What do you mean by that?

When conversations about how mental health services are delivered in our state take place, people living with mental illness are rarely at the table.  I think the reason for this is the perception that people with mental illness are not able to speak for themselves, or are too impaired to effectively be a part of those conversations.  This perception is false.  People living with mental illness are able to add an invaluable perspective to conversations.  They are the experts.

I have found that since there are few opportunities for people like me who have lived experience to give input into important decisions, we need to sometimes invite ourselves to the table.  That is why I signed up to testify against this bill that was being discussed by my elected officials.

I believe that it is important to point out that everyone living with a mental health diagnosis is unique, and that their experiences and perspectives are unique, too.

One voice of lived experience at the table is not enough.  We need lots of people to be willing to speak up.

What are other ways people who live with mental illness can participate in public policy discussions?

  • Anyone can call, email, or schedule a meeting with their representatives to voice their concerns! Find out who represents you here: https://www.gis.leg.mn/iMaps/districts/
  • Almost every county in Minnesota has a local citizens mental health advisory council.  Check with your county to see if there are openings, and apply to be appointed.
  • The State of Minnesota also has a variety of citizen advisory councils related to mental health.  You can check with the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office for a list of openings.
  • Occasionally, the Department of Human Services or counties hold listening sessions to get feedback from citizens about issues related to mental illness.  When those are announced, take the opportunity to participate and give your perspective.