Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Opening up about mental health January 3, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Slowly we are beginning to remove the stigma that masks mental illness. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2018.


FOR WEEKS, WE’D PRAYED for Lila*. I had no idea why she needed prayers. But it didn’t matter, pray we would as a church family for this friend who’d moved to another state.

A few weeks later, Lila’s husband returned, alone to Minnesota, to lead a local fundraiser. That morning he stepped up to the microphone after worship services and told us about Lila. She was hospitalized, undergoing treatment for severe depression and anxiety. I could almost hear the silent gasp. That took courage, I thought to myself.

I told Henry* the same when I later hugged him, expressed my concern and offered encouragement. He admitted to struggling with his decision to go public. But we agreed that the stigma surrounding mental health is beginning to lift, that talking about mental health issues is important and necessary. For Henry, a retired educator, his openness about Lila proved a freeing, teachable moment.

We all have much to learn on the topic, including me. Kicking depression is not a matter of simply willing yourself to feel better, to just get over whatever someone thinks you need to get over. It’s much deeper than that. Overcoming anxiety is not as simple as jumping into the deep end of a swimming pool and expecting someone to stay afloat.

I admire Henry’s decision to speak up. Likewise, I appreciate that my pastor publicly acknowledges his struggles with depression. That’s a first for me, to hear a pastor talk from the pulpit about personal mental health challenges. He’s young, of a generation seemingly more open to discussing mental health issues. The more we talk about mental illness, the better for those suffering and for loved ones and others trying to help.

Still, talk only goes so far. Waits can be long to see a mental health professional here in greater Minnesota. If you were having a heart attack, you wouldn’t be told to wait six weeks. If you had cancer, you wouldn’t be told to wait for treatment. A mental health crisis is no less important.

I am grateful to two bloggers I follow—Bob Collins at Minnesota Public Radio (NewsCut) and Penny Wilson (Penny Wilson Writes)—who write often on the topic of mental health. (Click here for a particularly enlightening post by Penny.) They are breaking through the stigma, opening the discussion, pointing out the challenges.

Twice in recent years I’ve stood in a snaking line at a Faribault funeral home to comfort the families of young men who committed suicide. I struggled to find the right words. I expect their loved ones struggle with the what ifs, survivor’s guilt, regrets, but, most of all, an unfathomable pain. Some grieving families are choosing now to go public in obituaries about their loved one’s struggles with depression or other mental health issues. That takes a lot of courage. We often read about a deceased person’s long and courageous battle with cancer. Battles with mental illness are no less courageous. I’m thankful to see this shift in thinking, to see people like Henry step up to a microphone and speak about mental illness.


* Not their real names.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Why I recycle holiday trimmings and cards December 19, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:31 AM
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ONCE THE GIFTS are opened—after we’ve played the steal-the-presents game—gift wrap and trimmings are scooped up in a furious rush to rid the room of rubbish.

And if I’m not quick enough, I miss the opportunity to salvage ribbons and bows, tissue paper and gift bags.

I cannot bear to see these items trashed. My extended family knows this about me and they laugh as I hurry to gather in the goods at our annual holiday get together.

I used festive holiday trim and a card from Christmases past to decorate this gift.

I used festive holiday trim and a card from Christmases past to decorate this gift.

But I was raised right, by a Depression era mother who saved everything. As the eldest daughter in a family of six children, I assumed some of her saver traits, including the recycling of holiday trimmings.

I do not, however, rescue wrapping paper as Mom did so many years ago while a farm wife guarding every penny. She would fold each piece of gift wrap with great care, attempting to remove strips of Scotch tape without ripping the paper. And then she would pack the pretty paper away with the previously used bows to reuse the following Christmas.

Examples of Christmas cards in my stash that could be recycled into gift tags.

Examples of Christmas cards in my stash that could be recycled into gift tags.

Like my mom, I also learned to recycle holiday greeting cards into gift tags. Why not? With a few snips of the scissors, I have a lovely tag to adorn a present.

I like to think, as I’m clipping cards and gathering the pretties ripped from presents, that I am honoring my mother, honoring an entire generation of Americans who saved and scrimped and got by as best they could with what they had.

We could all learn from them.

Long before recycling and going green became trendy buzz words, they already understood the importance of reusing/repurposing.

A recycled ribbon and card grace this package.

A recycled ribbon and card grace this package.

HOW ABOUT YOU? Do you recycle anything from the holidays?

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling