Brainerd Area Collaboration Awarded $100,000 Grant For New Mental Health Initiative
A new collaborative effort in the Brainerd Lakes Area has been awarded a $100,000 grant to create a new youth-focused mental health initiative.
Since 1999, Minnesota’s suicide rate has increased by 40% and is the second-leading cause of death for residents ages 10-24. This is a statistic that has been felt all too much in the Brainerd Lakes Area.
“Over the course of the last couple of years we have really been struggling. We’ve had suicides within our community and our school and the entire community has been banding together in so many positive ways to try to reduce the stigma,” said Brainerd Public Schools Superintendent Laine Larson.
A new collaborative effort between Essentia Health – St. Joseph’s Foundation, Crow Wing County, Central Lakes College, and Brainerd Public Schools is aiming to address this in youth a new way.
“I think in regards to our youth, our intent is to create the programming that’s specific to their age and to what they’re going through,” said Brainerd High School Principal Andrea Rusk.
The group recently received a $100,000 grant from Sourcewell through their first Nonprofit Innovation Funding Program to be used within the next year to create this new initiative.
“Many of our schools are telling us that they don’t have access to the resources they need at times to support their students with their mental health needs, and we know how important good mental health is to the learning process with our students and how that really ripples into the rest of the community,” said Paul Drange, Sourcewell Director of Regional Programs.
Last year, Crow Wing Energized implemented the “Make It OK” campaign with the goal of reducing the stigma of mental illness, particularly in adults. However, no equivalent program currently exists to reach youth. The funding will support the partnership and will enable them to hire a part-time staff member to facilitate the initiative, train ambassadors, and establish a pilot program.
“To be able to bring some of those resources that we can use for our middle school level students and families, our high school, and also our college,” added Larson.
Above all, the hope of the group is that they are able to reach a younger generation and break the stigma of mental illness.
“I think the long-term goals is that we will have a stronger, healthier community in regards to mental health and that we want to decrease the stigma involved with saying I need some help or I’m going through a tough time,” added Rusk.
The group is currently in the development phase of the new mental health initiative and hopes to have a plan of action in place by January.