Spotlight on mental health

Above: Clubhouse Manager Darek Olson stands in front of Upward Bound's collection of resources. Upward Bound is located at 104 E. 5th St. in Fairmont.

FAIRMONT- This past week has been National Mental Illness Awareness week, and over the course of the week clubhouses affiliated with the South Central Community Based Initiative (SCCBI) have promoted a series of daily activities intended to improve mental well-being and awareness of mental illness. This included Upward Bound 5th Street Express, a drop-in resource center in Fairmont for adults struggling with mental illness.

Both Alex Langsjoen, regional health manager at SCCBI and Upward Bound Clubhouse Coordinator Darek Olson highlighted the importance of recognizing mental illness in order to treat it effectively.

“It’s okay to reach out for help because there are people all over; there are neighbors, there are family members, and there are friends,” said Langsjoen.

“Mental health … affects everybody to some degree or another; some people it affects more than others, and there’s things we can do to improve our mental health and make it easier for people who suffer from different forms of mental illness,” said Darek.

According to data from the National Institute of Mental Health nearly one in five adults live with a mental illness and 5.6 percent of adults have a serious mental illness which result in serious functional impairments.

“It’s similar to physical disability; they aren’t defined by that, you aren’t defined by your ability or disability to do something,” said Langsjoen.

At Upward Bound Olson works to connect people struggling with illness with appropriate support, both inside and outside the organization. Upward Bound provides a place for people struggling with mental illness to meet other people with similar challenges and participate in programming which can improve their well-being.

“People know that they can come down and that this is a safe place to get support,” said Darek.

“It’s better than sitting at home and dwelling and thinking about things. If we come down here we can do stuff to get our mind off of it for a while,” said Gloria Olson, one of Upward Bound’s members.

Most of the activities Upward Bound hosted for Mental Illness Awareness Week focused on a different area of personal wellness such as exercising regularly or de-cluttering one’s workspace.

“These are things that everyone should do, but it’s a way to target a specific thing to tackle each day to help improve their mental health in the long run,” said Darek.

Other activities on Upward Bound’s October calendar include game nights, crafts, and a shopping trip to Mankato. In addition to these activities Upward Bound has other resources available for members such as computers and a recreational room.

“There’s several members who prior to coming down to the development center did not have many friends, but they were able to make friends and build a support system,” said Darek.

When someone is looking for help concerning mental health Langsjoen recommended reaching out to their county health agencies first.

“They are the mental health authorities throughout the state of Minnesota. They are safety net for people that can’t find care or coverage,” said Langsjoen.

If county health agencies can’t provide appropriate assistance to people struggling with mental illness, they can make referrals to organizations that can.


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