Wendy and Steve Hennes, Sartell
Recently, we hosted a house party in response to a request by the National Alliance on Mental Illness to meet with elected officials to discuss mental-health issues. We found our elected officials do indeed care about people who live with mental illness.
The officials who attended were Sen. Michelle Fischbach; Reps. Tim O’Driscoll and Jeff Howe; and Stearns County Commissioner Mark Bromenschenkel. Those elected officials came, they listened and they heard.
We were a small, yet powerful, group of people who learned a lot from one another about mental-health issues during our two-hour meeting.
Some of our Sartell neighbors who have family members living with mental illness told their stories. Family support-group coordinator Mike Stringer told of concerns shared by family members. Nick Johnston and Joyce Gelle, both of NAMI-St. Cloud Area, spoke about the history of services and the needs today. Sartell Police Chief Jim Hughes talked about the challenges law-enforcement personnel encounter when trying to get help for people in crisis situations who need mental-health assistance. Matt Burdick, NAMI-MN, facilitated the discussion and kept us all focused on how to move our concerns to the front lines so legislatively and socially people who live with a mental illness can get help and lead good lives.
That evening we let a light shine on a subject that affects each of us. We helped the light break through the clouds of stigma that surround mental health/mental illness. We took a step to let the light shine on treatment, housing, employment and making lives better for those who live with mental illness.
Maybe, as a result of that recent evening, the light will shine on mental-health issues at a legislative session or at a county-board meeting because of the talking, listening and learning we all did about mental-health issues and because of the human connection that happened.
Our sincere thanks to our elected officials for their support of mental-health issues.