COVID-19: Make Mental Health a Priority Too

“40 percent of American adults say they are socially isolated.” Our Executive Director, Shannah Mulvihill, discussed with Fox 9 Buzz on March 17, 2020, the need to make mental health not just physical health, a priority during this COVID-19 emergency period. With our country on lockdown and social distancing measures in effect, those who already feel isolated are struggling. In fact, we’ve seen a 20 percent increase in anxiety screenings across the country over the last few weeks.

Shannah recommends checking in with others through not just text or email, but through phone calls and video chats. Practicing self-care to reduce stress, worry and anxiety on a regular basis is important too, as is adding structure to your day. And getting outside, even in our backyards or balconies (or just opening a window!) to get some fresh air and sunshine can also help!

Connecting with our Minnesota Warmline can also benefit those experiencing increased feelings of isolation.

Mental Health Day on the Hill

Make your voice heard! Join us on March 12th to advocate for children and adults living with mental illnesses and their families at Mental Health Day on the Hill 2020 at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul. Over 300 mental health advocates will gather, listen to legislative leaders, and make some noise in support of building our mental health system…And we want you to be a part of it! The day will start with an issue/education session, then we will move on to the rally and visits with legislators.

We need your voice…Find out more about this event here!

Minnesota Warmline Receives $75,000 Grant

The Otto Bremer Trust has awarded our Minnesota Warmline with a $75,000 grant! We are honored and humbled by the support, which will help our organization continue to serve Minnesotans who may be struggling with loneliness, isolation, and other mental health concerns. Our Warmline’s Certified Peer Specialists, who have first-hand experience living with a mental illness, are professionally trained to listen and help callers prevent mental health crises B4Stage4. In 2019, our Minnesota Warmline responded to more than 12,000 calls and texts from 69 counties across Minnesota.

The news of the grant follows a funding commitment from Blue Cross Blue Shield in late 2019 to support the program.

“We deeply value the support of these organizations, and also appreciate their recognition that Mental Health Minnesota has developed as a model of peer support that is making a difference in the lives of so many people,” said Shannah Mulvihill, Mental Health Minnesota’s executive director.

Thank you Otto Bremer Trust for aiding us in expanding this vital, life-saving program!

Mental Health at Work Matters


Our Executive Director, Shannah Mulvihill, visited with a number of Congressional offices in Washington, D.C. in February 2020, and also attended a Mental Health America Conference (MHA) to learn about the Bell Seal for Workplace Mental Health, MHA’s new national employer certification program. We look forward to helping lead Minnesota employer involvement in this initiative! The goal is to drive workplace commitment to mental health support from the top-down, emphasizing how it can greatly impact the financial, emotional, and social success and growth of an organization.

Because all workplaces are different, an employer can aspire to receive recognition at four levels – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Through the certification process, employers will have the opportunity to discuss the relationship between mental health and the following goals:

  • Attract potential employees and increase retention;
  • Improve employee engagement and productivity;
  • Reduce health care costs and lost revenue due to poor workplace mental health;
  • Address concerns with presenteeism and absenteeism;
  • Reduce the rate of employee turnover; and
  • Identify gaps and learn about resources to support employee mental health.

An employer will be assessed—and recognition ultimately determined by—the following five categories:

  • Workplace Culture
  • Health Insurance & Benefits
  • Employee Perks & Programs
  • Legal & Ethical Compliance
  • Leadership & Community Engagement

Learn more about MHA’s application process.

Successful “Mind Your Health” Event Held on February 15

It was exciting to connect with hundreds of people at the Mind Your Health: Healthy Mind, Healthy Body event on Saturday, February 15, 2020 at the Mall of America. Thank you to our volunteers, partners and everyone who attended! Our Outreach Coordinator, Samantha Hedden, discussed our B4Stage4 approach to mental health prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery with attendees. Two of our ambassadors, Sam and Ryan, were there to share their stories of recovery. It was definitely an inspiring day and it was a wonderful opportunity to provide hope and support to so many Minnesotans!

May is Mental Health Month!


For the past 70 years, Mental Health America and its affiliates across the county have led observance of May is Mental Health Month.

As an affiliate of Mental Health America, Mental Health Minnesota is proud to participate in the national effort to promote positive mental health, as well as encourage a #B4Stage4 approach to mental health through early screening, early identification of symptoms, and early treatment to promote recovery.

A variety of resources and tools are available on the Mental Health America website, and can be found at


Mental Health Minnesota Awarded SAMHSA Capacity Building/Technical Assistance

Mental Health Minnesota is pleased to announce that the organization has been selected as a recipient of SAMHSA’s 2019 capacity building/technical assistance through the Bringing Recovery Supports to Scale Technical Assistance Center Strategy (BRSS TACS).

Mental Health Minnesota was chosen as one of just 25 recipients across the country. Approximately 160 organizations applied.

The focus of the technical assistance provided to Mental Health Minnesota will be to expand the organization’s work to engage the voice of lived mental health experience in public policy, as well as promote the use of peer-to-peer work in the provision of mental health services.

“We have worked hard to build our Mental Health Ambassador program, which provides opportunities for our communities to hear stories of mental health recovery and reduce stigma that continues to exist around mental health, and we now have 200+ ambassadors across the state. The next step is to expand opportunities for our ambassadors to engage with decision makers at every level to ensure that the voice of lived experience is heard related to funding and policy making,” said Shannah Mulvihill, Mental Health Minnesota’s executive director. “We are thrilled to be a BRSS TACS award recipient, and believe this technical assistance will help us continue to scale our work up and out, and increase our organizational capacity to ensure our success.”

Minnesota Warmline Takes Record Number of Calls in 2018

The Minnesota Warmline took nearly 10,800 calls and texts in 2018, more than double the number of calls in 2016, just two years before. The calls came from 73 counties across Minnesota.

“We are honored to be a trusted resource for help and support for so many people across Minnesota,” said Shannah Mulvihill, executive director. “Our Warmline staff is amazing and care so much about helping our callers, and the peer-to-peer approach used with this service is both unique and helpful to so many of our callers.”

The Minnesota Warmline provides people across Minnesota with an opportunity to connect with others, find support, reduce social isolation, and talk about their concerns in a peer-to-peer environment. For many people, the Warmline is an important tool that helps them before they reach a point of crisis and supports their mental health recovery.

Calls are answered by a team of professionally trained Certified Peer Specialists, who have first hand experience living with a mental health condition. If a caller is in need of more help, Warmline staff can directly connect him or her to the nearest county crisis line.

The Minnesota Warmline is open Monday through Saturday, 5 PM to 10 PM. For more information, click here.

Peers in Action: Sam Gaspardo

This month we interviewed Sam Gaspardo, who is part of our Mental Health Ambassador Network. Sam discusses how an abusive relationship spiraled her depression and anxiety out of control. Ultimately, packing everything she owned in her car and walking away from her life as she knew it at the time, finally set her on the right path toward recovery. It was on this journey that she found Mental Health Minnesota and she now helps others realize that recovery is possible.

Can you tell us about yourself, and why you decided to join Mental Health Minnesota’s Ambassador Network?

I am 25 years old and have dealt with anxiety and depression most of my life. During my senior year of high school, I was in an emotionally abusive relationship in which I was also sexually assaulted. This led to a downward spiral that ended in a suicide attempt on New Year’s Eve. I spent the remainder of my senior year recovering, attending group and individual therapy, getting myself to a place where I was able to graduate, and preparing for college. However, I had also blocked out the assault. I spent most of my college years drinking, abusing my medications, struggling with my anxiety and depression and slowly regaining my memory of my assault. While I did go to therapy, as well as a few outpatient programs, I was still extremely vulnerable and confused by everything I was beginning to remember.

Finally, my senior year of college I hit rock bottom and decided it was time to get help. I left fall semester early and attended an intensive outpatient program at Region’s Hospital where I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I left for spring semester feeling revitalized, hoping to finally understand and get help for what I was going through. However, a month into school I hit a major setback and ended up attempting suicide once again. After leaving the hospital, I packed up all 4 years of my life into my car and moved back home for good. It was then that I finally began to get the help I needed for my PTSD.

It was a rough year of therapy, EMDR, battling a drinking problem, self-harm, health issues and coming to terms with everything I had been through. Reliving the worst days of my life however, brought me to understand what I went through was not my fault.

It was on this journey that I found Mental Health Minnesota. I had done some public speaking in college about mental health awareness and was looking for somewhere local to volunteer and do something similar. A Google search brought me to their website where I saw you could submit your recovery story.

On a whim I decided to send mine in. A few days later, I received a phone call and not only did Mental Health Minnesota want to publish my story, they wanted to feature it on their website and asked me to be an ambassador. I don’t even think I let them finish explaining what an ambassador was before I said yes! Being a part of the Mental Health Minnesota Ambassador program has been amazing. I love being able to let other people know recovery is possible and meeting other people who are mental health advocates.

Do you have a crisis plan or a self-care plan in place? If so, could you share a little bit about how you came up with your plan?

I do have a self-care plan in place. It is a combination of coping mechanisms I learned in therapy, ideas I’ve gotten from others and things that have always comforted me. I have things I do specifically for my anxiety and when I am having panic attacks, things I do when my depression is bad, and things I do when my PTSD is triggered. Each of my mental illnesses goes hand-in-hand with the other, so a lot of my coping mechanisms work for multiple situations.

I have learned that instead of trying to turn off my feelings, if I let myself feel them completely, I am able to work through them and come up with ways to help myself the next time I am feeling that way. The biggest thing that helped me with coming up with my self-care plan was accepting that it is ok to not be ok all the time. It is ok to be sad, anxious, triggered, etc. It is all a part of having a mental illness, and like any other illness you need to take care of yourself.

The best advice I ever received was from my mom – she told me “If you had a cold you wouldn’t ignore it would you? No. You would eat some soup, sleep and get better. That is how you need to treat your mental illness.” Keeping that in mind helped me come up with my self-care plan – I now take care of myself so I can feel better 🙂

What things would you suggest someone think about when they are creating their own crisis plan or self-care plan?

I would recommend having a variety of plans, especially if you have more than one mental illness. Also, having a self-care plan for different stages of when you are struggling can be helpful. For example, I have things I do when I know my symptoms are mild versus things I do when I know my symptoms are more severe.

Sometimes looking on websites such as Pinterest or mental health blogs can give you good ideas for self-care or crisis plans. If you are seeing a therapist, they are also a good resource for discussing coping mechanisms and how to create a self-care plan.

What is your advice for friends and family members who want to support a loved one who is experiencing a crisis, or starting to experience signs of a crisis?

The most important thing you can do is let them know that you are there for them and that what they are experiencing is valid. Since there is still a strong stigma around mental illness, letting someone who is experiencing or beginning to experience a crisis know that their feelings are valid is very important.

Also, ask them what you can do for them – whether it be just listening while the person vents or helping them find resources to get help. There are a lot of resources online as well for family/friends.

I will never forget when I was first diagnosed with PTSD, I came home one evening and my dad was reading on his iPad. I walked past him, thinking nothing of it, when he stopped me and asked me about some ideas he had read about online to help with my PTSD. Little things like that mean a lot as well.

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.