Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Some encouraging mental health news & then… March 21, 2023

This message refers to the struggles associated with mental illness. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

WE’VE ALL SEEN THEM—fundraisers and GoFundMe campaigns to help individuals and families who are struggling. Perhaps you’ve even been in that spot of needing financial help following a devastating event or a major health crisis. You’ve likely attended many fundraisers and/or donated online. I am thankful for such generosity.

Typically, these pancake breakfasts, spaghetti dinners, silent auctions,…crowdfunding efforts follow a diagnosis like cancer, a car accident or a major event like a house fire. Missed work and overwhelming medical and other bills all too often deplete finances. And if not for the assistance of caring family, friends and even strangers, many could not get through the challenges.

Yet, in the all of this, I’ve often wondered why individuals who’ve experienced a mental health crisis are not fundraising also. When they’ve been hospitalized and/or found themselves unable to work, the financial fall-out is no less.

I photographed these mental health themed buttons several years ago on a bulletin board at the Northfield Public Library. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)


But I hold hope that is changing. I read an encouraging article, “Out from under: Crowdfunding is an option for people in mental health crisis,” by freelancer Andy Steiner. In her MinnPost article, Steiner shares the story of a 42-year-old artist and educator diagnosed with bipolar disorder and post traumatic stress disorder linked to childhood abuse and who suffers from debilitating migraines as a result. Unable to work sometimes for months at a time, the woman faced financial struggles. She was behind on her rent. A friend suggested she start a GoFundMe. Eventually, she reluctantly did so, getting enough donations to pay overdue bills and then some. It was just the boost she needed. Financially and mentally/emotionally.

Steiner’s article includes interviews with Mental Health Minnesota and with GoFundMe. I encourage you to read her story by clicking here. I feel such hope in reading that more people facing mental health crises are beginning to seek the outside financial support often elusive to them.

I recognize this doesn’t fix everything. We have a long ways to go in ending the stigma which continues to surround mental illness. I see improvements. But I don’t think we’re to the point where family and friends are delivering hotdishes (the Minnesota term for “casseroles”) to individuals and families in the throes of a mental health crisis. Financial and emotional support, encouragement and, yes, even compassionate greeting cards/calls/notes are needed just as much in these situations.

Reaching for help, this hand was part of a mental health-themed sculpture, “Waist Deep,” which once stood outside the Northfield Public Library as part of a changing art installation. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2019)


And we definitely need more mental healthcare professionals. That brings me to another recent bit of encouraging news. My county of Rice has been selected as the site for a new satellite office of the South Central Mobile Crisis Team, a team which responds (to homes, etc. and virtually) 24/7 in mental health crises in a 10-county area. Currently, it can take some 2 ½ hours for that team to arrive here from its home base 40 miles away. That’s too long. If you were experiencing a heart attack, for example, you wouldn’t be expected to wait two hours.

Yes, I hold hope. I hold hope for the many individuals and families who will benefit from additional, immediate mental healthcare resources. I hold hope that Crowdfunding and fundraising dinners and breakfasts will become more common for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis and the financial fall-out. I hold hope that they will find, too, a more understanding community of emotional support. All of this is so long overdue. We each have the power within us to show compassion and care and thus help reduce the stigma of mental illness. Let’s do it.

I highly-recommend this book to learn more about mental illness from the perspective of parents. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)


And then this happens: Irvo Otieno, 28, died March 6 in a Virginia psychiatric hospital days after initially experiencing mental health distress. Seven deputies have now been charged with second-degree murder in his death.

In a powerful statement to the media, Caroline Ouko said, “Mental illness should not be your ticket to death. There was a chance to rescue him. We have to do better.” The words of this grieving mother should cause every single one of us to pause and consider, what if this had been my loved one in a mental health crisis? Could this happen to someone I love? To any of us? Sadly, it could.

We can do better. We have to do better. Mental illness should not be a ticket to death.

Photographed along a recreational trail in the Atwood Neighbor of Madison, Wisconsin. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)


FYI: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis and/or is in need of mental health support, please seek help.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Minnesota Chapter and Operation: 23 to Zero (aims to prevent suicide among veterans and those in the military) are co-hosting a safeTALK Training from 8 a.m.- noon Saturday, March 25, at the Faribault American Legion. This event provides training in suicide alertness skills, connections to life-saving resources and more. To learn more and/or to register for this free-will donation half-day program, click here.

South Central Minnesota Crisis Line: 877-399-3040

National Suicide and Crisis Line: 988

National Alliance on Mental Illness, with state chapters, is a great resource for information and support, including virtual and in-person support groups. Click here to reach the national NAMI website.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


8 Responses to “Some encouraging mental health news & then…”

  1. Thank you, as always for continuing to spread the information needed on this important subject. ❤

  2. The Mobile Crisis Team sounds like a great step in the right direction. That is really good news. Once mental illness has touched your life in any way — it becomes very apparent that we as a nation need to make assessable care more available and much easier to access. Advocates, like you, will help make that happen. Thank you.

    • Yes, I’m grateful that my county will soon be home to a satellite office for the mobile mental health crisis response team. It’s so needed. We also need more mental health care professionals and definitely need immediate accessibility to care. Awareness helps, too, not only individually, but also in the workplace.

  3. beth Says:

    this is such an incredibly important post and what you address is so true. we need to take away the stigma of mental health and wellness and create an accepted place for it in our lives, to support the people who suffer from this, just as we do every other disease.

  4. Rose Says:

    Unfortunately, like many other illnesses, getting people to truly understand and care about Mental Health often means they have to suffer through these conditions themselves or witness it through a loved one. Otherwise, it’s not on people’s radar to be taken seriously. And as with most illnesses, they tend hit our low-economic, under-funded, under-supported communities first/hardest. Similarly with the Opioid Epidemic, as it hit First Nations hardest in the beginning, no one cared. As soon as lots of young white people began to die in large numbers – then the governments decided it was an issue that should be blamed on manufacturers and medical communities forcing pills into hands of every pain-sufferer instead of looking for real causes and solutions. No action is taken as we endure ‘waves of deaths’, until it touches people with too much money.

    • There is much truth in what you write and I sense your deep frustration. There’s a lot of health disparity in this country. There’s, as you state, often a lack of understanding and care regarding mental health unless you’ve been affected in some way, directly or indirectly. That’s why those of us who “get it” need to continue trying to raise awareness and compassion. I have to believe that eventually such efforts, no matter how big or small, will help. Even if one person is helped, one family feels uplifted, then the results of trying to raise awareness and compassion are so worth the repeated efforts. Onward.

      As I was eating lunch, I read a brief notice in my local paper about the Rice County Chemical and Mental Health Coalition seeking nominations for individuals who work to raise awareness, etc. on issues ranging from drug and alcohol abuse to mental health. I look forward to reading about these Prevention Champions. What a great way to honor individuals who are working hard in my county to make a positive difference.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.