Mental Health

Reducing the Stigma of Mental Health and Improving Access to Treatment

The Brown County Mental Health and Wellness Action Team (MHWAT) works throughout Brown County to reduce the stigma of mental health, improve resiliency and improve access to mental health treatment and services.

This team also works to identify policies, systems and environments that can reduce the effect of poor mental health outcomes throughout the county. Providing education to the community on the various risk factors associated with mental health is a key strategy.

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MHWHAT Priorities and Recent Accomplishments

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Suicide Prevention Training for Faith-based Professionals

In the fall of 2023, in partnership with the New Ulm Ministerial
Association, the team offered a free safeTALK training to 28 faith-based professionals on how to help prevent suicide. SafeTALK is a
half-day training program that teaches participants to recognize and engage people who might be having thoughts of suicide and connect them with community resources trained in suicide intervention. SafeTALK stresses safety while challenging taboos
that inhibit open talk about suicide.

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Kindness in Chalk

During Mental Health Awareness Month in May 2023, the team promoted a Kindness in Chalk activity in the communities of New Ulm, Springfield, Sleepy Eye and Comfrey. The goal was for people to cover the sidewalks with messages and images of love, peace, hope and acceptance with the intention of bringing smiles to the faces of those who need it the most. Local school students and area businesses also participated.

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Brown County Lunch Table Initiative

In the fall of 2023, the team began the Brown County Lunch Table Initiative at Springfield High School, with plans to bring it to all of the county’s middle and high schools. The initiative brings public health nurses and health educators into the schools to talk to students and staff about various health topics, ranging from physical health to mental health and anything in between. The goal is to lower the rates of mental illness, self-harm and suicide attempts of Brown County students by providing them access to additional supportive adults to whom they can turn.

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Adverse Childhood Experiences and Resiliency

Since 2022, in partnership with the Families First Collaborative of Brown County, the team has offered multiple presentations about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Resiliency as a first step in assuring a trauma-informed foundation for schools, communities, organizations and systems.

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Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) Trainings

Since 2019, the team has offered free QPR trainings to community participants to help people learn how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to use three simple steps — Question, Persuade and Refer — to help save a life. 

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Resiliency Program for Local Worksites

In partnership with the Worksite Wellness Action Team, the team has offered the Embrace Wellness program (formerly called The People Project) annually since 2020, reaching nearly 1,800 employees at local worksites to help them build resiliency through fun, evidence-based mental well-being strategies that result in better-connected, happier people.

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“Where to Start" Resource Guide

In 2022, the team developed a flow chart/resource guide in both English and Spanish to make it easier for community members to figure out where to start when they are struggling with mental health issues. In the spring of 2023, the team distributed the guide in the Scoop to almost 10,000 homes. The resource guide makes it easier for community members to figure out where to start when they are struggling with mental health issues.

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Change to Chill

Since 2019, five local schools — New Ulm High School, Sleepy Eye Public School, Springfield Public School, Red Rock Central and New Ulm Middle School — have participated in the Change to Chill School Partnership (CTCSP). Change to Chill is a free, online mental well-being program offered by Allina Health that aims to help teens identify what stress is, what causes it, and, most importantly, how to manage it.

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Other Priorities

  • Partner with NAMI, NUMC Occupational Health, schools, ECFE, CAST, day cares, food shelf and others to offer educational programs aimed at improving mental health and reducing stigma, especially during awareness months of May and October
  • Participate in the Minnesota Department of Health’s new Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Strategic Planning Cohort; HONU was selected as one of 23 groups

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