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Chamber starts new initiatives centered around mental health

The Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with several other organizations in the community, has started offering new benefits to its members revolving around mental health and resiliency.

Chamber Executive Director Shari Jenson said when she started in her position at the chamber in June, she began looking at the benefits the chamber offered and whether they were working or if there were better ways the organization could support local businesses. She said she was passionate already about mental health, and it’s an issue that kept coming up in many of her meetings.

In addition to the chamber’s other committees, it has started a new Employee Resiliency Committee, which is a spin-off of the chamber’s Worksite Wellness Committee. The committee will meet for a half-hour from 7:30 to 8 a.m. via Zoom the third Thursday of each month. It is open for chamber members to attend, particularly human resources employees, and raises awareness of pandemic fatigue and how to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health concerns. It will provide information, activities and services to increase emotional and psychological well-being.

Shari Jenson

Jenson said she has been certified by USA Mental Health First Aid to teach “Mental Health First Aid for Adults,” which is an eight-hour training available for chamber members at no cost. She said the training focuses on being able to recognize risk factors and warning signs of mental health concerns and gives strategies on how to help someone with these challenges.

She said just like CPR helps people having a heart attack, this course helps assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis.

Jenson also received training through the National Alliance on Mental Illness to present a shorter training titled “Helping Employees Live in a Pandemic,” which teaches coping mechanisms and things people can do for their own mental health.

Jenson said she has worked with Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea, Freeborn County Public Health, the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership, the Blue Zones Project and the National Alliance on Mental Illness on the efforts and wants people to know there is mental health help available in the community.

The chamber is also working on a video project with Lou-Rich and NAMI that employers will be able to show to their employees regarding mental wellness.

Lana Howe, health educator and SHIP coordinator for Freeborn County Public Health, said well-being activities have been added this year to SHIP’s existing strategies after review by local and state SHIP staff. Well-being includes the presence of positive emotions and moods, the absence of negative emotions and having a satisfaction with life, fulfillment and positive functioning.

With this in mind, the program was able to reimburse Jenson’s training expenses to become certified as a Mental Health First responder-trainer. This is one of many ways SHIP hopes to address well-being in the community.

Howe said she and others hope to use the data collected from the Community Health Needs Assessment, which highlighted a continued need to respond to mental health and well-being across the county. 

If people are interested in signing up for the training or want to be a part of the committee, they can contact Jenson at 373-3938 or email director@albertlea.org.