When the students at Brainerd High School were asked about their top health concern, mental

health ranked first.

According to MentalHealth.gov, mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps us determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Depression and thoughts of suicide both ranked higher at Brainerd High School than the national average. Depression is a serious medical illness that involves the brain. It’s more than

just a feeling of being “down in the dumps” or “blue” for a few days. There are more than 20

million people in the United States who live with depression. The feelings do not go away; they

persist and interfere with a person’s everyday life. Symptoms can include:

  • Sadness,

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy,

  • Change in weight,

  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping,

  • Energy loss,

  • Feelings of worthlessness,

  • Thoughts of death or suicide.

Depression is a disorder of the brain. There are a variety of causes, including genetic, environmental, psychological, and biochemical factors. Depression usually starts between the

ages of 15 and 30, and is much more common in women. Women can also get postpartum

depression after the birth of a baby. Some people get seasonal affective disorder in the winter.

Depression is one part of bipolar disorder.

There are effective treatments for depression, including antidepressants and talk therapy. Most

people do best by using both.

Suicide causes immeasurable pain, suffering, and loss to individuals, families, and communities

nationwide. On average, 112 Americans die by suicide each day. Suicide is the second leading

cause of death among 15-24 year olds and more than 9.4 million adults in the United States had

serious thoughts of suicide within the past 12 months.

Warning Signs of Suicide

If someone you know is showing one or more of the following behaviors, he or she may be

thinking about suicide. Don’t ignore these warning signs. Get help immediately. Warning signs include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself,

  • Looking for a way to kill oneself,

  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live,

  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain,

  • Talking about being a burden to others,

  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs,

  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly,

  • Sleeping too little or too much,

  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated,

  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge,

  • Displaying extreme mood swings.

Suicide is preventable; for more information, go to www.sprc.org If you or someone you know

needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Trained

crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you think someone is in immediate danger, do not leave him or her alone -- stay there and call 911.

Mental illnesses are more common and relatable than we think. And more importantly, people

experiencing mental illnesses will be treated with respect, acceptance and be more apt to get

the care they need.

To learn more about reducing stigma, the public is invited to attend an upcoming Make It Ok


  • 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m., Sept. 23, at Forestview Middle School in Baxter.

  • 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m., Nov. 4, at Forestview Middle School in Baxter.

Register through Brainerd Community Education at http://isd181.org/

Crow Wing Energized is committed to educating our community about mental health and

reducing the stigma of mental illness. The grassroots collaboration now has over 180

community leaders trained to deliver the Make It OK presentation; those volunteers have

presented the stigma reduction message to over 2,300 people in Crow Wing County. To get

involved with Crow Wing Energized’s mental health initiatives, check out our website at

crowwingenergized.org or follow us on Facebook.