Category Archives: Uncategorized

One Person’s Story Shows Importance of Early Treatment

When Sam first went to college, she had already been through a lot. She struggled with depression and anxiety throughout high school and had survived an abusive relationship. By the time her first semester of college started, she wanted to put it all behind her and start anew. What Sam did not know at the time, though, was that she was not only working against anxiety and depression, but also Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that had not yet been diagnosed.

Without understanding what she was up against, Sam struggled over the next few years. She had blacked out memories that were resurfacing and was often afraid to go out with her friends. She numbed the pain by drinking and became addicted to painkillers. It was not until her senior year of college that Sam sought out help. She found a therapist whom she says helped change her life. “My therapist educated me on PTSD, helped me through the trauma through EMDR Therapy, helped me realized I wasn’t a failure and, most importantly, taught me to love myself.”

Sam spent five difficult years battling an illness she did not know she had. Unfortunately, her story is not unique. On average, the length of time between the onset of symptoms of mental illness and receiving treatment is ten years.

So how can we get young people the right help sooner? Mental Health Minnesota, a statewide organization that provides mental health advocacy, education and direct service, believes that an awareness and understanding of symptoms is an important first step.

Mental Health Minnesota’s website hosts an anonymous online screening tool that aims to help people assess their mental health. There has been a tremendous increase in the online screening program, with more than 100,000 people taking the screening in the last year. That number is up from just around 7,000 in 2013. More than two-thirds of those screenings are being done by those between the ages of 18 and 24.

If young people are able to better understand what they may be dealing with sooner, they can seek out treatment earlier, and as a result, have a better quality of life. Sam strongly believes that had a screening been available to her earlier on, it would have been incredibly helpful to leading her to the correct diagnosis sooner.

Today, Sam is doing well: she is working on her recovery and has a passion for increasing awareness around mental illnesses. However, Sam’s story highlights the impact of the gap between onset of symptoms and treatment. When asked where she thinks she would be today if she hadn’t received the help she needed in five years instead of the average ten, she simply stated, “I don’t know if I would still be here.” However, she also wants to convey hope to others. “I have come to believe in the phrase ‘it gets better,’” said Sam. “I used to hate it when people said that to me, but now I realize why people say that. So, as much of a cliché as it is, things really do get better.”

Thursday, October 6, 2016, is National Depression Screening Day. If you are concerned about your mental health, you can take the anonymous screening at The screening includes assessments for symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, adolescent depression, alcohol use disorder, substance use and eating disorders. At the end of the screening, you will see your results and access resources for help.

“We want people to know that recovery is possible, and that help is out there,” said Shannah Mulvihill, Mental Health Minnesota’s executive director. “A screening like ours is a first step—We want more success stories like Sam’s.”

‘What do you think?’

Jake’s Story

Mental Health Minnesota Client Advocacy Program

Andrew called Kim, a Client Advocate at Mental Health Minnesota concerned about his brother Jake. Jake was living in Andrew’s basement and had undergone significant life changes in the last six months. Jake had lost his job, gone through a divorce, and had limited time with his daughter. He was showing signs of depression and found little motivation to seek help.

When Andrew originally called Mental Health Minnesota he wanted Jake to get help and wanted someone to speak to him about his options. Our Client Advocate agreed to speak to Jake, but was concerned about Jake’s level of interest in having the conversation.
The next day Andrew called with Jake on the other line. The Client Advocate could tell that Jake felt uncomfortable with the conversation from the start. Kim knew that, despite best intentions, pushing someone to get help often does not encourage engagement. Without engagement recovery cannot begin.

Kim recognized that the conversation would not be productive unless Jake was engaged and hopeful about seeking help. She asked Jake if he would feel more comfortable if it were just Jake and Kim on the phone. Jake asked Andrew if he could speak to Kim independently.

Once Kim was on the phone with Jake she asked him a question that he had not heard up to that point: “What do you think?”

Jake was taken aback, no one had asked him his wants or needs in his own situation. He disclosed that he had been going through a hard time and had wanted to look for help but was resistant because he didn’t feel like he had a say in what he wanted.

Jake then disclosed that he had a barrier to receiving help. He did not have insurance but had not told anyone else that this barrier existed. Feeling comfortable with Kim’s support, he was able to open up for the first time about not having insurance.
Kim spoke with Jake about his options for obtaining insurance and linked him with resources that he could go to in the mean time to receive help.

One simple question was what made all the difference for Jake in taking the first step in recovery. He was asked what he thought of his own situation and what he wanted to happen.

This person-centered approach is taken every day with our Client Advocates. Asking someone what they want not only promotes engagement in one’s own recovery but also instills the most important component of recovery: hope.

Arthur’s Story – Perseverance

Arthur's Story

We at Mental Health Minnesota are very excited for our upcoming Recovery Conference on May 20 — with the theme of living a life of recovery from mental illness. As we were preparing for the conference last week, we received word that our long-time supporter Arthur Anselmo had passed away. Arthur truly demonstrated a life of successful recovery, and we wanted you to know his important story.

Arthur was born in Hibbing, Minn., in 1926, the son of Italian immigrants Pietro and Erminia Anselmo. After graduating from Hibbing High School in 1944, Arthur served a brief stint in the U.S. Army Air Corps before attending college at St. Thomas University in Saint Paul. He followed his undergraduate study with a law degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI, before returning to Hibbing, where he became the village attorney. He was elected as a special municipal judge in 1952 at the age of 26.

Arthur was known for his judicial prowess, and at age 34, Arthur became a Judge in Minnesota’s Sixth Judicial District; at the time he was the youngest person to ever have served in this position. He had a very bright political future, with many speculating he would go to the Minnesota Supreme Court or the US Senate.

However, he was also known for excess. Though his first bout with depression came on just a few months after he was appointed, in general he was able to manage his rollercoaster swings for six years. However, the stress of commuting between Duluth and the Twin Cities (where he was piloting a juvenile court judge program), as well as his heavy case load, exacerbated the situation. Anselmo became known for his mania, including gunning his Porsche at 140mph over Duluth’s aerial bridge at 4am. Finally, he resigned his judgeship, and entered the darkest period of his life. His parents both died; he divorced; he was briefly institutionalized.

Arthur spent the next several years trying to wrest his life back from his illness as he learned to manage the drastic swings between mania and depression. Basically jobless and homeless, at a time when mental illness often meant long-term institutionalization, Arthur crafted his own successful recovery with the help of advocates, including Mental Health Minnesota.

He went on to a second successful career, serving twenty years as the Assistant Minnesota Attorney General in Duluth. In 1986, Governor Rudy Perpich appointed him Commissioner of Bocce Ball.

In his retirement, Arthur became a mental health advocate, serving on the boards of several mental health organizations and sharing his experience with bipolar disorder. He even made a brief appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show to share his experiences of despair and recovery.

The important thing about Arthur’s life of recovery was that it was not one simple thing that turned a switch and solved it. Over the years, he suffered many more manic-depressive incidences. He was known for excess during those times, including extravagant purchases and even an impulsive marriage. But those times also made him dig deeper to come back to the bases of recovery, especially his family. His two sons helped him with that, and his son Dario has taken over the reins in becoming a strong advocate for mental health issues.

It was never easy, but to Arthur, it was always worth it. As he said in a 1993 interview with the Duluth News-Tribune “You can be diagnosed and have good doctors and join the support groups, but somewhere in there…You’re the key person.”

Arthur’s life of recovery allowed him to enjoy wonderful time with his family, including his sons and grandchildren. He is also survived by Lynda Anselmo and countless friends. His last weekend was a weekend of storytelling and family time, before he passed away on April 26, just two weeks short of his 90th birthday — still in recovery, and still making it happen.

Jessie’s Story

By: Jessie M.

Both of my parents struggled with severe persistent mental illness. Meeting in a halfway house after getting out of the state hospital in the 1970’s, they quickly fell in love. After getting married, having two kids, and struggling with finances and other issues, they decided to divorce when I was three and my sister was seven.

Growing up, I experienced the roller coaster highs and lows of my father’s bipolar disorder. I also experienced the disconnected silence of my mom’s schizophrenia and depression. While I always knew that my parents loved me, I often felt criticized, ignored, misunderstood, and alone.

I tried hard in school to get the positive attention of teachers and my parents; in 2003, I graduated valedictorian from my high school.

When my mom died of breast cancer in my second year of college, I retreated into academics, isolation, and caring for my ailing and devastated father. After my first hospitalization for anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts in 2006, I decided I would stay on medication and attend therapy–possibly forever. I never wanted to return to the dark depths of hopelessness and despair.

Ten years later, I’ve many struggles and successes. I graduated college, taught English in Mexico, got married, had two children, and am now in graduate school. I’m still on medication and attend weekly therapy and two support groups. I still have frequent mood swings and have begun to see their connection to hormonal cycles and early trauma. With the help of my therapist, doctor, and other specialists, I’m working to manage these issues and find joy in being who I am.

I used to think I was too messed up to help others. I realize now that my life experiences make me well prepared to understand others and support them through their struggles. After graduating with my master’s degree in social work next year, I hope to become an advocate, public speaker, and leader in de-stigmatizing our society’s view of mental health. By sharing my story, I hope to show others that we all deserve to find joy, success, and happiness, regardless of labels, diagnoses, or stereotypes.

Samantha’s Story

by Samantha Gaspardo

I used to think that my mental illness defined who I was, but over the past five years, I have learned that I define who I am.

I have always dealt with depression and anxiety, but it wasn’t until recently that I was diagnosed with PTSD. In high school, I reached rock bottom. I was in a verbally abusive relationship, I was raped by my boyfriend (which I blacked out of my memory for almost a year) and became suicidal. After being told by my ex-boyfriend that I should kill myself, I finally decided to go through with my plan. To this day, I still thank God for not letting that plan work.

My parents discovered me on my couch, incoherent from taking pills. They rushed me to the hospital where I proceeded to get the help I needed. After being in an adolescent psychiatric ward and a girls group for teenagers with depression, I began to comprehend what I had gone through a little more. However, since the PTSD was still undiagnosed at this time, there were still a lot of issues.

That fall I went off to college and tried not to think about anything I had gone through. I spent the next four years trying to forget about what I had gone through, suppressing the memories by drinking, sleeping around and also became addicted to painkillers. I had tried out a few outpatient programs in those years, thinking that after completing them I was ok. I also was on and off my medication a lot in those years, because I was afraid of peers finding out I was “crazy”. I also thought that by going off my meds that it meant I was ok, everything was better.

That did not turn out to be the case.

Finally during what would have been my senior year of college I entered a partial program for mental health issues. I learned a lot about myself, was finally diagnosed with PTSD and was on the right path. That is until I returned to school. I ended up in the hospital with PID thanks to a cheating ex-boyfriend who caught a disease. After all I had gone through, I felt like everything I worked for in the in-patient program was for nothing. I went back home for a week and became suicidal again.

I did NOT want to go back to school, I was angry at the world, and when my parents told me I had to go back I came up with a plan again.

The very night that I got back to college I overdosed again. I told everyone it was a cry for help and that it was an accident, but secretly I was hoping that something would happen. I was in the hospital overnight and thankfully they agreed to let me go back home and get help. I packed up all of my belongings from my apartment as soon as I got out of the hospital and headed for home. The next few months were very hard, my depression had kicked in full force. I thought I was a failure for dropping out of college, I worried that I would never be ok, and I worried that I had no purpose to my life.

That April I started seeing a therapist who changed my life. She educated me on PTSD, helped me through the trauma through EMDR Therapy, helped me realize I wasn’t a failure, and most importantly she taught me to love myself.

I have been out of school for almost two years now and each day I get stronger. I have told myself that it is ok to have bad days and be sad, but that I should also never stop fighting. I realize I will deal with my depression, anxiety and PTSD the rest of my life, but have decided that I will not let that hinder me from my goals.

Most importantly, I have come to believe in the phrase “it gets better”. I used to hate when people said that to me, as I am sure a lot of people who struggle do. But I now realize why people say that. I cannot imagine not being here today, there is so much that I would have missed out on. So I want people to know that as much of a cliché it is, things really do get better.

Don’t be afraid to drop out of school or delay going to college to get better, don’t be ashamed to take medication, don’t worry what people think because you are in therapy. There is such a stigma about mental illness, you just have to push through that barrier and help people see the side of it that we see.

I am not a victim of sexual assault, I am not my depression, I am not my anxiety, I am not my PTSD. I am a warrior who will never stop fighting.

Sen. Franken’s Bipartisan Measure to Combat Mental Health Crisis in Criminal Justice System Clears Senate, is One Step Closer to Becoming Law

Senator’s Comprehensive Legislation Passes in Full Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C. [12/10/15]—Today, the Senate approved U.S. Sen. Al Franken’s (D-Minn.) bipartisan legislation to make our communities safer by improving access to mental health services for people in the criminal justice system who need treatment.

Earlier this year, Sen. Franken introduced his Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act, which would help reduce the rates of repeat offenders and improve safety for law enforcement officers. The bill cleared the full Senate today, and now needs to pass in the House of Representatives before becoming law.

“Our criminal justice system is broken—it doesn’t help treat people who have mental illnesses, and it doesn’t protect the safety of law enforcement personnel,” said Sen. Franken. “The United States has five percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s prison population. And that’s in large part because we have criminalized mental illness, using our justice system as a substitute for a fully functioning mental health system. That’s a huge problem, and my Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act would help fix it.

“I’ve been working for years on this bill, and I’m very pleased to say that we just took a huge step towards reforming how our criminal justice system treats mental illness. My bill bolsters federal support for mental health services—including special support for veterans who need help—and provides critical training to law enforcement.

“Now that my legislation has cleared the Senate, I’m going to fight to get it passed in the House of Representatives and signed into law. It’s too important to continue ignoring this crisis.”

For years, Sen. Franken—a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee—has been working on his criminal justice measure in order to bring more resources to law enforcement, the courts, and correctional facilities and help them better deal with the increasingly prevalent mental health issues they encounter. He’s held meetings on his legislation all across Minnesota, meeting with law enforcement, advocates, and other experts on how to best reform how our criminal justice system handles mental illness.

The Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act would improve outcomes for the criminal justice system, the mental health system, and for those with mental health conditions by doing the following, among other things:

Extending the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA), and continuing support for mental health courts and crisis intervention teams;

Authorizing investments in veterans treatment courts, which serve arrested veterans who suffer from PTSD, substance addiction, and other mental health conditions;

· Supporting state and local efforts to identify people with mental health conditions at each point in the criminal justice system in order to appropriately direct them to mental health services;

Increasing focus on corrections-based programs, such as transitional services that reduce recidivism rates and screening practices that identify inmates with mental health conditions;

Supporting the development of curricula for police academies and orientations; and

· Developing programs to train federal law enforcement officers in how to respond appropriately to incidents involving a person with a mental health condition.

More information on the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act is available here.

How are you feeling? Online Screening: the first step toward recovery

SAINT PAUL, Oct 7. For immediate release.

October 8, 2015 marks the 25th year of National Depression Screening Day. In the last year alone, more than 80,000 individuals have taken an interest in assessing their mental health through the online screening tool provided on the Mental Health Minnesota website, and the numbers are growing. 63% of people taking the online screening are between the ages of 18-24 and 85% between 18-34.

So what’s happening here?

First of all, we know that young people are actively concerned about their mental health, and rightfully so. Between the ages of 18-24 is when people are facing the world on their own for the first time. They are paying bills, going to college, living on their own and building a life. Incidentally, the ages of 18-24 is often when onset for mental illness occurs.

Screening results show that 62% of individuals who took the screening for depression and 72% who took the test for anxiety had never been treated. Those numbers jumped when an individual took the screening for bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); 93% of those people had never received treatment.

And yet, all of these screenings found the vast majority of individuals to be “at risk” for the illness.

The role of mental health screening

Mental health occurs along a continuum. For many young adults it is extremely difficult to know when to ask for help.

At what point does homesickness turn into depression? When do homework and life stressors turn into anxiety? When do the highs and lows of being a young adult point to bipolar disorder? The lines are blurred.

Online screening acts to make it a little clearer. The screening is an anonymous, non-judgmental way for adults to determine where they are on that mental health continuum. Anyone can take the screening anywhere at anytime. Over 60% of all screening completed is on a mobile device. You could be sitting on a bus or at the library and the person next to you would not know you were participating in a screening.

Knowledge is power.

Two-thirds of all mental illnesses have an onset by the age of 25. The average length of time between onset and treatment is 10 years. Those living with a serious mental illness are dying 25 years before those without a mental illness.

By determining whether someone answering questions is “at risk” of a mental illness, we can work to significantly reduce the gap between onset and treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment not only can improve someone’s quality of life but also their longevity. Knowing you may have a mental illness is the first step toward recovery and a fulfilling life.

Mental Health Minnesota: The Voice of Recovery provides the free online screening at

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 10.51.47 AM

About Mental Health Minnesota: The Voice of Recovery

The mission of Mental Health Minnesota is to enhance mental health, promote individual empowerment, and increase access to treatment and services for persons living with mental illness.

We work to help people in their journey toward mental health recovery and wellness through direct service, public policy, education and outreach.

Shannah Mulvihill
Executive Director
Mental Health Minnesota
Phone: 651-756-8584 ext. 1


Hali Kolkind
Development and Communications Associate
Mental Health Minnesota
Phone: 651-756-8584 ext.9

Millions Lack Needed Mental Health Care, WHO Finds

Lisa Schlein
July 14, 2015 11:57 AM

Hundreds of millions of people worldwide who suffer from mental disorders get little or no treatment, the World Health Organization reports. Its Mental Health Atlas 2014 finds that though mental illness constitutes 10 percent of the global health burden, it draws just 1 percent of the financial and human resources needed.

The Atlas provides the most comprehensive look to date at the global state of mental health. It contains data from 171 countries, representing 95 percent of the world’s population.

The report finds every country, region, age group and strata of society suffers significantly from mental disorders. Yet, it says the mental health field attracts very few nurses and other health care professionals and draws minimal spending.

A wide health-care gap separates poor and rich countries. The ratio of mental health care providers in low- and middle-income countries is one per 100,000 people compared to one per 2,000 in wealthy countries, the report said.

The financial gap also is broad. Poor countries spend less than $2 per capita each year on mental health, compared to more than $50 in high-income countries, according to the report.

Stigma interferes

Communities and countries do not pay enough attention to mental health problems because of stigma, Shekhar Saxena, director of WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, told VOA. He said people shrink from speaking about their problems for fear of losing status in their societies or losing their jobs and relationships.

“There is a misconception that once a person is mentally ill … nothing much can be done about it, which is far from the truth,” Saxena said. “WHO’s documents have very clearly highlighted the fact that largely mental disorders are treatable. People can become all right – completely all right or partially all right – can go back to their job[s], can look after their normal roles and functioning in a very satisfactory way.”

Mental health disorders are continuing to increase, WHO said, with one in four people affected at some point over a lifetime. But three out of four people with severe disorders receive no treatment.

Serious consequences

Health systems’ inadequate responses are having serious consequences, it said, warning that depression will be the leading cause of disease burden by 2030.

Data from the Atlas show 900,000 people a year commit suicide, which also is the second most-common cause of death among young people.

The report also said people with mental health ailments suffer a wide range of human rights violations.

It’s much better to treat people with mental disorders in community-based settings than in institutions, WHO’s report said. Unfortunately, it noted the majority of spending – 82 percent – goes to mental hospitals, which serve a small proportion of those who need care.