Guest column by Mark Kossman
Millions of people live their lives with mental health issues every year. During the month of May, Mental Health Awareness is celebrated to bring attention to mental health issues and provide support for those living their lives with mental health issues. May, Mental Health Awareness Month, was established nationwide in 1949 to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and to help us remember that mental health is essential to our overall health. This is an opportunity to raise awareness in our local community about mental health issues. It also gives us the opportunity to further reduce the stigma around mental health issues. Although the stigma associated with mental health issues has decreased significantly in recent years, there can still be hesitation regarding mental health issues and treatment.
Mental illness is more common than most people realize. People struggling with mental health issues are the people sitting next to us at church, the people we see at the grocery store, our neighbors and our friends. One in four people live with a mental health problem and approximately 450 million people worldwide are affected by mental health problems. Since mental health issues can affect people from all backgrounds and socioeconomic levels, including teachers, doctors, managers, retail workers, cashiers, and farmers. We all probably have someone in our life who struggles with a mental health issue. Mental illness affects us all.
To this day, there seems to be a misunderstanding about mental illness and its effects on people. For example, depression is more than just feeling “blue” or feeling sad for a few hours throughout the day. Symptoms of clinical depression frequently include loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities, persistent feelings of sadness, trouble sleeping or excessive sleep, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, problems with feeling tired or losing energy almost every day. These symptoms should be present almost every day for a period of two weeks. People with depression may also withdraw from family and friends and have difficulty going to work or school. Anxiety is also very common. Symptoms of anxiety often include restlessness, irrational fear, excessive worry, agitation, and panic attacks. The three most common mental illnesses are anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
As a professional working in the mental health field, one of the frustrations we face when helping people living with mental health issues is the lack of mental health resources in the area. As Sue Abderholden, executive director of Minnesota’s National Alliance on Mental Illness, has often said, “the mental health system is not broken, it was never built.” In some cases, a person may be transferred to a hospital several hundred miles from home when hospitalized for mental health reasons, which alienates them from friends, family and their support system. . Affordable housing for people with mental illness is also a barrier. There are also long wait times for outpatient mental health services, including individual psychotherapy and psychiatry appointments. The need for mental health services in our community has probably never been greater. We are extremely fortunate to have the Freeborn County Mental Health Center in the community, which provides responsive, caring and compassionate outpatient mental health services.
The Freeborn County Mental Health Center provides mental health services to all county residents, including psychiatry, individual and group therapy, chemical dependency assessments, and adult mental health case management . The Freeborn County Mental Health Center has two psychiatric service providers, Dr Annette Smick, who is a licensed psychiatrist, and Brian Vold, an advanced practice registered nurse, who are able to prescribe psychiatric medication for mental health issues. mental health, including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar symptoms, behavioral problems, attention and concentration difficulties, and addiction, among others. Our psychiatric providers also perform psychiatric assessments and are available to meet with children, adolescents and adults.
There are also four individual therapists who offer individual psychotherapy at the mental health center. Our therapists use a positive, person-centered, strengths-based approach to help people achieve their goals, overcome challenges, and achieve well-being. Therapists work closely with our four Adult Mental Health Case Managers who work specifically with people living with severe and persistent mental illness and partner with people to coordinate additional mental health services. Freeborn County also has two Mental Health Assistants who run our local clubhouse. The Next Step Clubhouse provides a safe environment that provides companionship, acceptance and support for mental health service users and offers many special programs and activities. The Mental Health Center also provides consultation on mental health topics to other community agencies and educational services to the community.
During the pandemic, the Freeborn County Mental Health Center continues to provide psychiatric, therapy and substance use assessment services via telephone and videoconferencing. This ensures that services can continue without requiring residents to leave their homes. We also offer in-person appointments. We are able to schedule appointments within days of calling our mental health center. We are accepting new clients and appointments can be made by calling 507-377-5440.
Mark Kossman, Psy.D, LP, is the program manager for Freeborn County Mental Health Center.