Natasha Ward (L), Director of Community Health Improvement and Alexis Warzon, Make it OK Ambassador of Western Wisconsin Health. Photo by Paul J. Seeling
Natasha Ward (L), Director of Community Health Improvement and Alexis Warzon, Make it OK Ambassador of Western Wisconsin Health. Photo by Paul J. Seeling

Submitted by Maggie Cogbill, WW Health

BALDWIN, WI – Western Wisconsin Health hosted a Make It OK Mental Health Community Event on Wednesday, September 27 at the St. Croix Central High School.

The event included a presentation about the Make It OK campaign by Natasha Ward, Director of Community Health Improvement from Western Wisconsin Health and Catherine Olson, LCSW from Catherine C. Olson Counseling, LLC. After the presentation, Shane Grinley, a community speaker and Make It OK Ambassador from Western Wisconsin Health, shared his personal mental health journey. The presentations were followed by a panel conversation on mental illness and ways to reduce the stigma and an audience Q & A. The panel facilitator for the event was Jeff Fern, High School Counselor with the St. Croix Central School District. Panelists included Kurt Soderberg, St. Croix Central High School Principal, Dr. Christopher Babbitt, Western Wisconsin Health Psychologist, Savannah Bodish, St. Croix Central Student, and Pastor Ralph Olsen from Trinity Lutheran Church.

The goal of the Make It OK initiative is to make it just as acceptable to talk about mental illness as we do about diabetes, heart disease and other physical illnesses, and help those affected feel comfortable seeking treatment. The panel discussed local strategies to reduce stigma and plans to improve mental health care in the region, in addition to answering questions from community members. One question asked from the audience was what to do when you are concerned about someone’s mental health, but the person does not seem receptive to getting help. Dr. Babbitt recommended to, “Stay with the person. Check in with them regularly and make sure they know you are there for them and available when they’re ready to talk about what’s going on.”

“It’s so important to get the Make It OK message out to help people in the community understand the stigma surrounding mental health that prevents people from getting help,” said Natasha Ward, Director of Community Health Improvement from Western Wisconsin Health. “Some of the personal experiences shared that night demonstrated the need for more mental health education for the community as a whole in order to help people develop compassion and understanding for those experiencing mental health challenges. We are all affected in some way by mental illness and if we can get the message out we hope it can be viewed like any other treatable medical condition.”

You can help spread the word on ways to reduce mental health stigma. Consider attending our free training to become a Make It OK Ambassador on Wednesday, November 29 from 5:00 – 7:00 pm at Western Wisconsin Health. At this training, you will receive the tools and resources to be able to talk about Make It OK at community groups and events. All are welcome; you do not need to be a mental health expert to participate.

Learn more about the Make It OK campaign and find personal stories of people living with mental illness, tips on talking about mental illnesses and more at makeitok.org. You can also make a pledge to join the initiative to help stop the silence and stigma surrounding mental illness.

For more information or to register for our upcoming Make It OK Ambassador Training, please visit wwhealth.org in the “Classes” section or contact Natasha Ward at 715-684-1285 or community.wellness@wwhealth.org.