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Providing a place for mentally ill

Marcie Deboer stood outside her office at Our Place in downtown Brainerd. Our Pl

Marcie Deboer has always known what she would do with her life. There’s never really been any question. 

Deboer is a mental health care practitioner  with Northern Pines Mental Health Center in Brainerd at the nonprofit’s downtown drop-in center, Our Place. 

“I love what I do. ... I’ve wanted to do this since I was in high school,” said Deboer, who credits a psychology teacher with inspiring her desire to work in the mental health industry. “I’m teaching, but it’s kind of a role modeling kind of thing, too.”

 Our Place provides social opportunities for adults affected by mental illness.

“I try to make them feel welcome and part of the community,” Deboer said. “When you have mental illness you feel alone a lot of the time.”

Our Place provides daily activities, planned group activities and informal social time in a safe environment. The center sees a diverse range of patrons from young adults to retirees. 

The center is run by the guests who receive the center’s services, Deboer said.

“It’s taken a long time, but it’s been a great thing,” said Deboer of the center’s recipient-driven daily activities.  

Deboer said most people who are affected by mental illness are surprised to find that they are not alone.

“Everyday there are people who need help,” she said. “(Mental illness) touches everyone of us in everyday life.” 

Deboer said that mental illness is diagnosed equally in men and women, and many of the individuals she sees struggle with addiction issues including chemical dependency and gambling addiction.

People often don’t understand mental health care, she said. 

“We need to know that its OK to get help. It just takes seeing your doctor,” she said.

While Deboer primarily works with adults with mental illness, she said that in the future she hopes to pursue an advanced degree in art therapy, a practice the uses art to find how people’s emotions work. “It’s a great way to work with kids,” she said.  

In addition to running Our Place in Brainerd, Deboer is mom to 5-year-old Evan.

“It’s the best thing in the world,” Deboer said of being a parent. “Evan is the center of our world.”

Deboer, a native of the Fargo-Moorhead area, met her husband, Todd, after being introduced by mutual friends while the two were in college. She was studying at Minnesota State University, Moorhead, while Todd was 70 miles away studying at the University of Minnesota, Crookston. 

“We had a long distance relationship for a while,” Deboer said. “It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.”

The couple moved to the Brainerd lakes area in 2001 when Todd took a job with the City of Baxter.

“He took the first job that came up. He had never heard of Brainerd,” Deboer said. “We took the risk and we’re glad we did.

“I really love it here. I don’t think I’d want to leave.”

SARAH NELSON may be reached at or 855-5879.