Minnesota Hospital Association


January 16, 2019

Reaching out to communities to reduce mental health stigma

Essentia Health is reaching out to the communities it serves to help people better understand mental illnesses and help reduce the stigma felt by those who experience them. Staff at three Essentia Health hospitals across northern Minnesota are partnering with other organizations to provide educational materials, organize community events and create speakers’ bureaus.

In Duluth, Essentia Health St. Mary’s Medical Center is part of Northland Healthy Minds, one of the largest coalitions in the state working to reduce the stigma of mental illnesses. More than 50 organizations are part of the effort. Northland Healthy Minds was created through a collaboration between two health systems in Duluth – Essentia Health and St. Luke’s. The organizations work together on a shared Community Health Needs Assessment and implementing health improvement strategies for the benefit of the community.

The program trained more than 30 community ambassadors as part of the Make It OK mental health stigma reduction campaign and reached nearly 26,000 people through local employers. A series of community events during Mental Health Awareness Month in May 2018 reached around 1,200 people. The coalition also has offered mental health first aid classes and organized a mental health resources fair. Essentia Health has contributed $20,000 and staff time.

In Brainerd, Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center partners with public health to lead Crow Wing Energized, a grassroots health and wellness movement. Community health survey results in 2017 found that more than 1 in 4 adults in Crow Wing County have a mental illness. On average, people wait 10 years to seek treatment for mental health issues, often due to stigma. Essentia Health began modeling stigma reduction by working with the Brainerd Dispatch and the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce to host a panel of community leaders who each shared their own stories of mental illness to an audience of 300, with an additional 5,000 people viewing the livestream.

More than 200 people have been trained as Make It OK mental health stigma reduction ambassadors, each pledging to deliver two Make It Okay presentations throughout the community in the coming year. The training also has been offered to 1,300 Essentia Health employees and more than 400 Crow Wing County employees. Essentia has invested $10,000 in the Make it OK program plus staff time. It has contributed $2,100 for mental health first aid trainings and $7,500 for programs on adverse childhood experiences. Another $37,000 has supported resiliency-building efforts reaching 35,000 people in the past three years.

In Detroit Lakes, Essentia Health-St. Mary’s is a leader in Becker County Energize, which earned a national award for its Mental Wellness Collaborative’s outcomes. The community group organized training to improve awareness around mental health, helped change policies that resulted in a 23 percent reduction in emergency holds and better coordinate care for people with mental illnesses.

The group trained more than 300 people on mental health first aid, drew more than 100 people to a Stomp the Stigma awareness walk and more than 200 to DL Thriving, a youth-oriented mental wellness festival. It also provided training on adverse childhood events and youth mental well-being to more than 300 teachers and staff from three school districts, Head Start, the Boys and Girls Club as well as foster care and child care providers. A community photo contest and exhibit shared 26 stories. Essentia Health has contributed $7,000 to these efforts.