I’m not sure if it is the shorter days, the cold, the political climate, or my mental health, but I’ve been craving signs of hope lately.
My husband and I have been living in rural Southwest Wisconsin for a few years now, and there are many ways in which it is challenging, especially as someone who has always lived in cities, and most recently in Chicago. We’ve had a hard time finding community, and found “our people” in a town 30 minutes away. I haven’t found the professional colleagues I hoped for, or, at least, they’re not who I thought they might be.
But in recent months, there’s been something especially exciting going on in our area, something that has helped me to feel a little more like we belong. A local Community Action Program that works on issues of poverty in a five county area got a huge grant to do work around behavioral/mental health. There’s a severe lack of providers in the area, but also an absurd amount of stigma around asking for help, and plenty of other barriers that keep people from accessing services. So, through asset-mapping in each county, while also providing Mental Health First Aid training and other such programs, there are things happening. And, it has helped me to remember that I’m not the only person around here concerned about these issues!
Each county is moving ahead in different ways. The funding cannot be used for more providers, though the staff are looking into grants to help pay for more providers. The variety of projects I’ve heard about include: a public service announcement campaign addressing stigma; creating a position for a mental health care navigator; creating a more effective online resource guide, etc. Even just in meetings of caring community members, we’ve noticed exciting things. My husband and I are both open to self-disclosure of our own mental health concerns, and have found that our willingness to disclose in meetings has helped open space for others to self-disclose as well.
This has been the sign of hope that I’ve needed, and I believe that spreading news of projects like this is part of spreading hope.
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.