United for wellness: Area group works toward community mental wellness
By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD – An area group is working for community wellness in an environment of increasing insecurity and pressure. United for Community Wellness was created to “address the impact prolonged and increased stress is having on mental health and overall wellness in our community,” through support, education, and empowerment.
“Lisa Miller, a child and family therapist from Children’s Wisconsin, reached out to United Way and the Community Foundation wanting to explore ideas on what could be done to help our community through a time full of many uncertainties and new challenges,” recalled Krystal Bowman, Marshfield Area United Way communications director. “Through her work, especially, Lisa saw a need to reach out to community members to remind people about the importance of taking care of not just your physical health, but your total wellbeing, including your mental health. After a few conversations, a group of community partners were connected to organize a plan to form what has now become what is United for Community Wellness.”
That group includes Bowman; Ashley Winch, Marshfield Area United Way executive director; Stacey Schultz, Marshfield Area Community Foundation executive director; Joanne Greenlee, School District of Marshfield social worker and mental health coordinator; and Jodi Chojnacki, mental health therapist and advocate for mental health issues.
“The group meets virtually to develop a schedule of topics related to mental health – nutrition, exercise, time management, creativity, sleep, connectedness, anxiety, etc. Content is then created about each topic that is shareable via outlets like social media and email. The information is sent out not only on social media platforms, but also to a list of over 40 business leaders, human resource professionals, and community organizations,” Bowman explained.
“The content is intended to be uplifting and hopeful, while offering tips and techniques in caring for one’s mental health. Often times, activities and challenges are offered as part of a topic to encourage ways to participate – it could be as simple as deep breathing techniques, or sending a letter to an old friend.”
And, the need is greater now more than ever. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services says that 52,981 people were provided with mental health services in 2020, up considerably from a 32,164 average in 2014; 37, 378 in 2016; 40,484 in 2018; and 42, 615 in 2019.
Of those served, most needed short term/situational assistance in crisis conditions.
“2020 has been a challenging year with many changes. Our staff has stepped up greatly and adapted as needed, but that doesn’t come without new stressors and worries. United for Community Wellness has been a great outlet to not only help our community members, but also remind us how important it is we take care of ourselves,” Bowman said.
“Mental Health has come to the forefront as an emerging need both nationwide, as well as, locally. To address this rising need, Marshfield Area United Way is proud to partner with local programs focused on providing mental health services to our community members. In 2020, Marshfield Area United Way funded Children’s Wisconsin Counseling and the new School District of Marshfield Mental Health Consortium, a program that provides scholarship dollars for children and families who could benefit from counseling services, but do not have the means to afford professional counseling services.”
Members of the group say that being part of a movement to assist the community and let those suffering know that they are not alone is rewarding professionally and personally.
“Like many of us, I have a few family and friends, close to me, who struggle with depression, and I see how it affects not only them personally but also the loved ones around them who care for and love them,” Bowman stated. “I have seen firsthand how stress and anxiety affect a person’s overall health and wellness. United for Community Wellness offers people ways to not only care for their loved ones, but to also care for themselves.”
“My entire career before the Foundation was working in the nonprofit sector with people with mental health needs. I think it would be hard to find someone that doesn’t have a personal connection with mental health,” explained Schultz. “I learn so much from friends/family working through issues of anxiety, depression, and bipolar. I have seen firsthand the effects of COVID-19 on an elderly family member who is isolated from their typical social outlets. I’ve also learned to talk about my own ups and downs through the pandemic. It normalizes what so many are feeling. I think it helps for people to be open about their own journey through this incredibly tough year.
“Any efforts to help support an emerging need, such as mental health, is satisfying professionally and personally. In a year like this it feels good to know our efforts might brighten someone’s day or encourage them to talk to someone about what they’re going through.
“I think one thing I’ve learned through forming this group is that it really is possible to take an idea and make something of it. If you can find other people with the same passion, great ideas can be implemented that benefit so many.”