Guest Column: Training slated to address mental health

Published 3:36 pm Saturday, June 18, 2016

Live United, By Ann Austin 

Ann Austin is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County. 

As we age, we naturally begin to grow more concerned about our physical health and well-being. However, many individuals and organizations are recognizing the importance of monitoring our mental and emotional health.

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According to the World Health Organization, approximately 15 percent of adults ages 60 and over suffer from a mental disorder. The most common mental disorders are anxiety and depression.

Though it may seem like part of the normal aging process, there are signs and symptoms to watch for that will indicate if a situation is more serious and needs to be addressed.

To help shed light on questions community members and care providers have about these topics, there will be a day-long training called Gray Matters from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday at Edgewater Bay Pavilion. All are invited to attend: care providers, individuals, family members and friends. This training is provided through the National Alliance for Mental Illness of Minnesota.

Ann Austin

Ann Austin

There are three topics covered in the training and people may choose to attend one, two or all. The day begins with “Understanding Depression in Older Adults” and covers what is normal as we age and risk factors for depression, as well as resources available to help.

The next presentation is titled “What You Need to Know About Aging and Anxiety.” There will be discussion about what causes an anxiety disorder, the different kinds of anxiety and treatment options.

The day will close with “Co-Occurring Disorders of Mental Illness and Dementia in Older Adults.” This presentation will delve deeper into more serious and persistent mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and Alzheimer’s disease. Strategies for working with people with co-occurring disorders will also be covered, so this training would be especially helpful for care providers.

Lunch will be provided to all attendees. Registration is required through Freeborn County Family Services Collaborative by visiting (and click “Trainings” to find registration) or by calling 507-377-5504.

There are several collaborations in Freeborn County focused on various aspects of mental health. These collaborations are working in partnership for Freeborn County to receive NAMI affiliation. This would help sustain efforts and bring more resources to our area so people can receive the help they need in a timely manner.

NAMI provides a variety of trainings upon request and also works to engage in public policy. At the close of the recent legislative session, several promising investments were approved, including:

• Changes to the crisis housing fund so it can be used for people who have a serious mental illness, not just a serious and persistent mental illness.

• Increased funding for school-linked mental health grants, with $33,000 in fiscal year 2017 and $1.45 million per year in the next biennium. These are critical to expand NAMI efforts to identify and treat youth early when they can have a great impact. Half of all people with a serious mental illness began experiencing symptoms by the age of 14.

• Increased funding for the Homeless Youth Act and Safe Harbor for sexually exploited youth with each program getting $33,000 in FY 2017 and $1.45 million and $750,000 respectively each year of the next biennium.

• Matching funds to schools to hire new school support personnel.

Though much has been accomplished in our community, the state of Minnesota and across the nation, more needs to be done to provide education and resources for people who need help and reduce the stigma associated with mental health conditions.

If you are interested in getting more involved, please contact me (Ann) at the United Way at 507-373-8670 or Lana Howe at Freeborn County Family Services Collaborative at 507-377-5504.