Stopping the Stigma

Last week on Oct. 10, the world observed World Mental Health Day. The day was created to raise awareness against the stigma that so many face with mental health. In our society, there exists a preconceived idea that depression and anxiety are a result of weakness, a lack of mental fortitude, and this stigma can be damaging to individuals seeking help.

Frank Turner

Fighting mental health with nothing but the sheer force of will isn’t any better than trying to think away a cold. Seeking help is okay, and although mental health struggles can be difficult, there are available resources in Hettinger for those who need them.
According to Behavior Health Program Coordinator/Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor Tara Jorgenson, West River Health Services offers a wide range of mental health services available to all ages with a multitude of trained counselors and medical professionals.
Specifically, West River Health Services offers individual therapy, couple and family therapy, medication management, diagnostic assessments, stress management, and many more services for those who need professional help. The hospital also offers telepsychiatry to connect patients to specialists in other parts of the country, and just recently, the hospital started their first ten-week group counseling program.
“If anybody is looking for services, it should be an easy process to call the clinic of your choice and schedule an appointment,” said Jorgenson
For those looking for additional support, Libby Gravning hosts a support group every first and third Monday of the month at the Hettinger Research Extension Center.
Although Gravning doesn’t have any formal experience in the mental health field, she does have her own life experience. Gravning started the meetings in May of 2018 after her husband, Brian Gravning, completed suicide after a “life-long struggle with mental health.”
Shortly after her husband passed, Gravning started facilitating support meetings.She wanted to create a readily available resource to let people know they weren’t fighting alone.
“My first disclaimer at the meeting is that this is a support group only,” she said. “It is a safe place to come talk and be open. I have no medical experience or background, but I do have connections, whether it be medical, mental health, or faith based. ”
“If his loss could help save one person, then his passing wasn’t in vein,” she said.
Gravning said the main goal of the support group is to make sure people know they aren’t alone when facing mental health struggles. The group is available to not only those who are struggling, but also for those who may be watching a family member or friend struggle, not knowing what to do.
“It’s hard to watch somebody struggle and not know how to help. Or just feeling like you’re not doing anything whenjust being there a lot of times is what they need,” she said.
The support meetings, Gravning said, focus mainly on group discussion and the available reading resources. Looking forward, Gravning said she hopes to attract experts and speakers to share their knowledge in Hettinger.
“We have talked about different books, but so far it’s been mainly active discussion,” said Gravning. “I would like to make the meetings more informational with mental health speakers.”
So far, the community has been receptive to the idea of the meetings, however for many people, taking the next step and showing up has been a challenge.Since the conception of the meetings, a small group has attended regularly, however Gravning said she hopes to see more people reach out and try the meetings.
“If everyone in the community who has talked to me about coming to the meetings came, the room would be full,” she said. “I know it’s needed, I know it’s wanted, and I know it’s a hard thing to do. It’s just to take that first step.”
She continued. “I’ve had quite a few who have said, ‘I’ve had the meeting on my calendar. I’ve gotten ready to go, but I just can’t.’ There are some that have even driven by and just can’t stop.”
Although it can be tough, there are available resources close to home for mental health struggles. People can contact West River Health Services at 701-567-4561. In addition to seeking out professional medical help, people can also call or text Libby Gravning at 701-928-0226 for more information about the support group meetings.

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