I’m embarrassed to say that I took my first Mental Health First Aid class this week (what took me so long?). But, I’m also excited to say that I took my first Mental Health First Aid class this week! It is an invigorating time to be in rural southwest Wisconsin when you have the passions that I do. My first few years here, I was (stupidly) astounded at the lack of mental health/behavioral health services. I don’t even want to begin recounting stories, because they make me incredibly angry.
About a year ago, though, a local agency got a huge grant to work on behavioral health in a few counties. A significant part of the focus is on stigma reduction, and they’ve been very clear from the beginning that it is important to work with clergy and faith communities. I can’t say that all of the clergy have been open to the discussions, but the very fact that they’ve been invited and some are participating is worth celebrating, in my book. There have been workshops, asset-mapping sessions, etc. There are plans to both create a position for a sort of ‘mental health care navigator’ who can help folks figure out where to go and who to call, as well as talk of bringing a few more providers to the area.
Part of the plan has also been to provide free Mental Health First Aid trainings to community members. So, I took this as a sign to attend my first training. And, friends, sitting in that training, I was reminded of my vision of the beloved community, the kin-dom on earth. That is, a place where stigma around mental health is no more. A place where when we see a neighbor in crisis, we respond in an appropriate and compassionate manner. A place where we all embrace our own mental health, whatever that may look like. It is possible, and it will come about!
It is a long training, and because I recently got a Masters of Social Work, moments felt a little redundant*. But the chance to be reminded of this vision, and to get a glimpse of how we are working to get there…. Those things made it well worth it. I’ve been struggling with my own mental health in recent months, but now feel newly inspired to keep my eyes and heart wide open for more experiences like this, experiences that give me a glimpse of the kin-dom.
Hannah Campbell Gustafson
Hannah Campbell Gustafson and her family recently made a leap of faith and moved to Minneapolis, MN from rural Wisconsin. She is the outreach coordinator at Plymouth Congregational Church. Hannah is treasurer for the Mental Health Network, is trained as a social worker, has an MDiv, and is a Member in Discernment with the Southwest Association of the Wisconsin Conference of the UCC. She and her partner (an ELCA Lutheran pastor) share their lives with their young child Leona and their standard poodle puppy Óscar.