Mental health advocacy and resources in Webster County will be front and center Friday at the second Continuing the Mental Wellness Conversations workshop in Fort Dodge.
The workshop, to be held at Trinity United Methodist Church, is a collaboration between seven area organizations and focuses on normalizing mental health discussions and training, as well as providing residents with information on resources available within the county and in Iowa.
“Everyone has a role to play in suicide prevention and mental health awareness,” said Demi Johnson, behavioral health program specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. “Many people think that our formal support networks such as physicians, pastors, police officers, and therapists are those that will help us in a mental health crisis, and that’s true. However, it’s those in our most intimate inner circles who are going to be the first to recognize our distress. The more people who are trained in recognizing signs and symptoms of mental illness and know what resources are available, the sooner we can get people the help they need.”
The goal of the daylong workshop is to equip area residents who live with, love, and work with families with individuals with mental health needs the understanding of resources, stigma, and advocacy.
The workshop will begin at 8:30 a.m. Friday at the church, 838 N. 25th St . Lyndsey Fennelly will serve as a keynote speaker to the event. Fennelly was a standout on the Iowa State University women’s basketball team and drafted into the WNBA in 2007. She married Billy Fennelly, assistant coach for the ISU women’s team. In the middle of a two-week hospital stay following a mental health crisis, she thought “not me.” Fennelley has since decided to use her high-profile voice to reduce the stigma of mental illness and raise awareness of the services available.
“Mental illness touches one in five Iowans, but mental health touches every single human being,” said Fennelly. “We all have the capacity to improve our mental wellness.”
Kim Bodholdt and Courtney Cook with Prairie Lakes AEA, along with Deb Franz from Webster County Health Department, will present on the healing power of relationships and the importance of making connections with children and adults experiencing tough situations.
Johnson will close the workshop by providing suicide prevention training for adults who work with youth.
“Question. Persuade. Refer. (Q.P.R.) works just like CPR,” said Johnson. “The average person doesn’t have to know how to treat the illness. They need to recognize that something is wrong and help someone until professional help is available.”
“Talking about one’s mental health should be as common as talking about any physical health condition,” added Roxanne Fevold, behavioral health director and mental health therapist. “I often find myself trying to advocate for normalizing the importance of talking about mental health and making it safe for people to be able to share the struggles they experience. I am grateful to have the opportunity to sit with others in the community and continue the conversation and move forward in the goals of removing barriers for people to access care.”
This is the second Continuing The Mental Wellness Conversation hosted by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Trinity United Methodist Church, UnityPoint Health Berryhill Center, Webster/Calhoun Youth Wellness Coalition, Community Health Center Fort Dodge, Serving Our Servants, and CJ Bio America.
Mental health facts
• Between 2019 and 2021, there was a 31% increase in mental health-related emergency department visits in the United States
• Half of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14; and 75% begins by age 24
• High school students with significant symptoms of depression are more than twice as likely to drop out compared to their peers
• Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 in the U.S.