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Shining a light on mental health

Jane Brekken, a Make It OK ambassador in Crow Wing County, practices yoga. Submitted photo1 / 2
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Stigma is a huge hurdle for many who face mental illness.

On average, people wait 10 years to get help, often because of the stigma surrounding it, according to HealthPartners, the founders of the Make It OK campaign.

Make it OK is a grassroots effort that encourages people to talk about mental health. It's also a

program Crow Wing Energized, a community movement led by Essentia Health and Crow Wing

County has heavily promoted in response to a cry for help close to home.

In Crow Wing County, 1 in 4 adults experiences mental illness. The national average is 1

in 5.

"It's here. It's pervasive. We're all affected by it," said Kathy Sell, marketing manager for

Essentia Health and Crow Wing Energized, in a news release.

That's why 180 community members have been trained to be Make It OK ambassadors in the

Brainerd lakes area. Training is hosted by Crow Wing Energized and is funded through Crow

Wing County and Essentia Health.

Jane Brekken, a life coach and former addiction counselor, jumped at the chance to volunteer

as an ambassador. Her goal, along with the goal of the other ambassadors, is simple—bring

the Make It OK presentation to local groups in hopes of reducing the stigma surrounding

mental illness. In return, they hope more people seek help in the early stages of mental illness.

When Brekken decided to become a Make It OK ambassador to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, she did it without hesitation. She is one of 180 ambassadors in the Brainerd lakes area who goes out into the community to educate others about mental health.

"It doesn't matter if there's one or 25 people in the audience," Brekken said. "Someone's going to hear this message and be able to change their attitude around mental illness."

By signing up, each ambassador commits to doing two presentations in the community within

one year of their training.

"It's about prevention, and prevention is really key here," Brekken said. "Stigma is a huge hurdle for both the person afflicted with the disease and loved ones. Getting over that negative connotation of someone who has mental illness or addiction is foundational.

"It's so important to change your attitude and your perceptions about these problems because

then you can start talking about it, learn and grow."

Life can get better for those affected by mental illness, and Crow Wing Energized reported it is proud to play a small part in an enormous undertaking that promotes hope and healing.

Multiple events planned in May

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

Crow Wing Energized has events planned to help educate the community and reduce stigma.

The public is invited to a Make It OK presentation to learn more about reducing stigma. When

people start talking, they may realize that mental illnesses are more common and relatable than they may think.

Make It OK Presentations

• 1-2 p.m. May 11 at the Brainerd Public Library,


• Noon-1 p.m. May 21, 2019, Brainerd Lakes Chamber CTC Meeting Room,


• 6-7:30 p.m. May 22, Prairie Bay in Baxter,

Registration: and click on Events.

The Difference Support Makes in Developing Resilience

This workshop will explore aspects of suicide and mental health related issues as associated

with Adverse Childhood Experiences and explore the resilience possible through peer

support and family involvement. The conversation will also address the work of Face It

Foundation on working with male depression.

• 10 a.m.-noon., May 16 at Crosslake Presbyterian Church,

• 1:30-3:30 p.m., May 16 at Crow Wing County Land Services Building.

Registration for both events is online at

Mental Health First Aid for Adults Who Support Youth

Mental Health First Aid is an eight-hour course that teaches participants how to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The training helps identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

The event is 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., June 18.

Where: Sourcewell, Staples, hosted by Wellness in the Woods.


Make It OK workplace presentations

Would you like to bring the Make It OK presentation to your workplace? Ambassadors are

available to present the one hour Make It OK presentation throughout Crow Wing County.

Contact Kathy Sell at to coordinate bringing a presenter in to

your workplace or organization.