Watertown agencies, schools push for mental health awareness

Authorities across the city are promoting mental and emotional health efforts during September, Suicide Awareness Month.

The Watertown School District is offering a virtual mental health event, while Glacial Lakes SAFE has expanded its focus and unveiled a new brand.

The Virtual Family Mental Health Night takes place on September 28th

The school district is partnering with the Cook Center for Human Connection to host a free virtual family mental health night on September 28 from 7-8 p.m

Participants will hear from a clinical psychologist, ask questions, and learn about available free resources. Register at https://CookCenter.info/Sept28.

Those unable to attend can visit https://ParentGuidance.org. The site provides access to on-demand virtual classes, professional support and a safe community where parents can learn how to support their children and get answers to mental health questions.

Professional courses offered for mental health issues

There are courses on anxiety, depression, self-esteem, grief and loss, suicidal thoughts, and other mental health issues. All of the courses were created by therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists and other board-certified psychiatrists, according to a press release.

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The Watertown School District is a partner to local mental health efforts, including Watertown Healthy Youth and Glacial Lakes SAFE.

Other Glacial Lakes SAFE services

Glacial Lakes SAFE is a coalition of mental health professionals, community members and businesses dedicated to helping the area. The effort, led by the Human Service Agency, has provided resources for individuals and training for professionals for several years, including the first Suicide Awareness Walk and Memorial Ceremony in 2015, according to a press release.

SAFE stands for Suicide Awareness for Everyone.

Initially, the coalition focused on suicide awareness and help for those who have recently lost a loved one to suicide. However, over the years, members have also begun to focus on mental health initiatives and serving the well-being of the wider community.

“Suicidal thinking is a combination of helplessness and hopelessness coupled with isolation from communication,” Jessi Whetsel, a counselor at Lake Area Technical College and a Glacial Lakes SAFE member, said in the release. “We have an amazing community with lots of resources to help people. What we are seeing is that the stigma of mental health is a barrier to getting help when we need that help so badly. Many people feel like they can’t get in touch with them or even talk about being unwell, which increases feelings of isolation. Now is the time to do what we do best in our Midwestern community—help our neighbors. We need to change the way we look at mental health so our neighbors and loved ones can reach it when they need it.”

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The project began in May with an online survey distributed through Glacial Lakes SAFE and its partners to community members of all ages and walks of life. A key goal of the survey was to identify the most effective messages to raise awareness of mental health issues.

Respondents indicated that they are more likely to trust their friends and family and turn to them for information and sources of help and support when it comes to dealing with mental health problems. The highest ranked messages will be used in new Glacial Lakes SAFE branded materials and can be shared by individuals and businesses.

The new Glacial Lakes SAFE logo is a reinterpretation of the previous logo. It has the same colors representing suicide awareness and features a dragonfly. A dragonfly is an important symbol for those who have been part of the Coalition since its inception as it represents transformation and self-realization, according to the press release.

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“Glacial Lakes SAFE urges its partners and community to address the stigma surrounding mental health and to support individuals on their journey to well-being by sharing Glacial Lakes SAFE’s Facebook messages. We know that as a community we trust our friends and family,” said Kelli Rumpza, Watertown Community Prevention Specialist and Glacial Lakes SAFE Moderator, in the press release.

The project is financially supported by the Watertown Area Community Foundation and the South Dakota Department of Social Services.

Mental and emotional wellbeing resources available in Watertown

If you or someone you know is in a mental health emergency, call or text the new national crisis hotline on 988.

Locally, the Human Service Agency can also be called at 605-886-0123. A list of helping professionals in the community can be found at https://bit.ly/WatertownResources.

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