Mental Health Minnesota enhances mental health, promotes individual empowerment, and increase access to treatment and services for persons with mental illnesses. This mental health non-profit serves the state of Minnesota and mental health issues, disorders, laws and employment.
Meet Rick. He is a 49-year-old man living with depression. For years he has suffered in silence. He is not unlike many men who silently live with mental illness and do not reach out to ask for help. Recently, Rick reached out to Mental Health Minnesota. He wasn’t sure what he needed. He just needed the pain to stop. This simple but important step – reaching out – led Rick to the road to recovery and finally some relief.
I was able to direct Rick to the Face It Foundation located in the Twin Cities. This organization is dedicated to men’s mental health recovery. They offer support groups, one-on-one peer support, activities and an online chat. The foundation gives men the support they need to face depression and take control of their recovery. Rick called me back a few months later empowered by finally opening the door to treatment and support.
Which mental illnesses most commonly affect men?
Depression and anxiety disorders are the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses among adults in the U.S. Among men, depression is the most common mental illness – over 6 million men are affected by depression each year in the U.S.
More than four times as many men than women die by suicide in the U.S. Suicide is the seventh leading cause of death among men – over 35,000 men die by suicide in the U.S. each year. Risk factors can include social isolation, substance abuse, unemployment, trauma, and genetic predisposition. Research has also found that men are less likely than women to seek help for depression, substance abuse and stressful life events due to social norms, a reluctance to talk, and a tendency to downplay symptoms. (Source: Mental Health America)
I live in a rural area and am having trouble finding mental health support. What can I do?
Minnesota has a farm and rural helpline that is available to farmers and rural residents. The helpline is funded by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and is free, confidential, and open 24/7. Counselors who answer calls are specifically trained to provide support to address the unique stresses that farmers and rural communities face. The helpline can be reached toll free at 833-600-2670.
Are there resources specifically available for men?
The Face It Foundation, where Rick found support, connects men with other men who have experienced living with a mental illness. They offer support groups, group activities, and an online support network.
Psychology Today has a search engine where you can search for therapists, psychiatrists, and support groups. You can filter your search using wide variety of key words, including men’s health.
Are there resources available for men in the LGBTQ community?
The Minnesota LGBTQ Directory is a website where you can search for providers who currently serve LGBTQ people, have knowledge of LGBTQ health disparities, and provide competent care to LGBTQ people.
The Trans Lifeline is a hotline dedicated to the well-being of transgender people. The Trans Lifeline can be reached at 877-565-8860.
If you are having trouble getting connected with resources and services, please call Mental Health Minnesota and ask to speak with a Peer Advocate.
Mental Health Minnesota had the opportunity in May to participate in a national 5K series to increase awareness of mental health concerns around the country.
The event was part of a national effort to raise awareness and funds to support mental health programs, where local participants joined Dr. Adel Korkor as he ran a 5K in every state over 50 days.
“We were honored to be a part of Dr. Korkor’s work to raise awareness about mental health,” said Shannah Mulvihill, Mental Health Minnesota’s executive director.
Nearly 80 people participated in the first-time event, which was held at Lake Rebecca Park Reserve in the Delano area.
“So many people who attended the event brought their own story. For some it was about their own recovery, for some it was about struggling to find help for someone they loved,” said Mulvihill. “It’s our hope that events like this can encourage people to talk more about mental health and reach out for help when they need it.”
Mental Health Minnesota has received an $80,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services to support peer-to-peer groups for people living with a serious mental illness who are interested in seeking employment. The grant is part of nearly $950,000 recently awarded as a part of a new disability services innovations grants program to support people with disabilities in the community.
Approximately one in 17 people live with a serious mental illness, and for many, symptoms of their illness have made employment difficult or nearly impossible. In fact, the unemployment rate for people living with serious mental illness (SMI) is more than 80%. Many have goals related to employment, but barriers remain to securing and maintaining employment, as well as being successful in their employment goals in both the short and long term.
“We know that meaningful employment can play an incredibly important role in mental health recovery,” said Shannah Mulvihill, executive director. “We believe that additional assistance and resources as people living with serious mental illness enter the workforce could be instrumental in their success and ensure that they truly have an equal opportunity in employment.”
The “Steps to Employment” groups will provide a unique peer-to-peer approach to employment readiness, addressing topics such as establishing realistic goals, addressing barriers, stress management, self-care, working as part of a team, handling conflict, and more. The groups will be facilitated by Certified Peer Support Specialists, will be time-limited (eight hours total), and are intended to serve as a complement to other employment programs and services offered across the state. The program’s peer-to-peer approach will help ensure that a comfortable, safe environment exists for people seeking support from others, as well as some of the “soft skills” needed to ensure that they are truly successful in their work.
“We are lucky to have many employment programs across Minnesota for people living with disabilities, but there are very few opportunities for a peer-to-peer approach used in employment, especially related to mental health,” said Mulvihill. “Living with a serious mental illness creates unique challenges to successful employment, and who knows that better than those who have found a way to conquer those obstacles?”
Mental Health Minnesota will be seeking partnering organizations that serve clients who could benefit from this program. The groups will be offered at no-cost, given the grant support received. Please contact Kim Lutes, Mental Health Minnesota’s program manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
This month, we interviewed Ryan Rasmussen, who works as a Certified Peer Support Specialist. Ryan discusses how employment played a part in his recovery journey, and what led him to his decision to pursue a career as a Peer Support Specialist.
Ryan, what led you to pursue a career as a Certified Peer Support Specialist?
Several aspects of my life led me to the decision to become a Peer Support Specialist. Over the course of individual therapy work, my therapist suggested it could be a career path I might enjoy and be fulfilled in.
After looking into it, I decided that becoming a Peer Support Specialist would be a good recovery goal for myself, and further help me maintain my own recovery.
I also believed that I was capable of helping others with my own lived experiences of trauma, addiction, homelessness, and extreme poverty. Becoming a Peer Support Specialist provided an avenue for me to do that, and be a living message of hope for others.
How has employment played a role in your recovery process? Have there been things that are difficult about going back to work?
Employment has been a significant cornerstone of my recovery process. It has helped me feel that I am valuable within society, and enabled me to reach and obtain goals along the way, a crucial aspect of my own recovery. Initially in recovery, I worked on a clean and sober construction crew, in restaurants, and finally began my career as a Peer Support Specialist.
Through working my way up from part time work at a Warmline speaking to people living with mental illness over the phone, to working at a Community Support Program, I began to work my way up and reach significant goals along the way. Currently, I have full-time employment working with the homeless population. Each goal I have achieved on my journey through the employment process has strengthened my recovery and enabled me to become more engrained in the recovery process of the clients I work with. It has been incredibly rewarding to me to be able to be a positive influence on the communities I serve.
Although gratifying, the process of finding and maintaining employment has not been without obstacles for me. It has been hard to find a balance between building a career while also working to rebuild my personal life in recovery. Work can also be stressful, and can sometimes be a place where potential triggers exist. Maintaining a job with severe and persistent mental illness can be challenging, yet the rewards far outweigh the challenges I have encountered.
Do you have any advice for someone who is in recovery and considering going back to work?
Based on my own experience, people in recovery who are considering returning to work should be aware of the challenges or barriers that may exist, make a plan involving realistic goals related to employment, and seek support in whatever aspects they may struggle with during that process.
Support may include others in their life or even third-party organizations that help people get back into the workforce. If possible, I believe that people should wait until they are truly ready and have a strong foundation in their recovery.
What advice do you have for someone considering a career as a Certified Peer Support Specialist?
Being a Peer Support Specialist is a very fulfilling career path. If someone is considering pursuing this path, they should first research the process involved in becoming a Certified Peer Specialist, and have a strong desire to be willing to utilize their own lived experiences to help others.
Individuals interested in this career should ask themselves, “Do I want to get into a career that is primarily based around helping others with similar issues I have experienced?” If so, this may be a very positive, life-changing career for that person.
You ask, our advocates answer. This month, Suzanne discusses the benefits of employment and how to find supportive employment services.
Priscilla called Mental Health Minnesota to speak with me about looking for a job, and returning to work after having spent so much time not working over the past decade. Not unlike others who are out of the workforce for a while, Priscilla had concerns about going back to work. Through a series of questions and answers we discussed what her goals were for employment and created a plan of action. She was interested in returning to work as a personal care attendant. She wanted to maintain her recovery. She preferred to not disclose her disability to her employer. She was interested in having more spending money but she did not want to lose her social security benefits or her health care insurance. We discussed how it would be possible for her work part time and still receive some economic benefits and for her medical assistance to continue.
I suggested she contact the nearest workforce center. At the workforce center Priscilla will have free access to classes, computers and counselors who can help her with the nuts and bolts of searching for jobs, writing her resume and cover letters, and learning how to interview for a job. She will be able to get direct feedback from her assigned counselor on how to “handle” the extended unemployment question. After our conversation, Priscilla felt more confident about the steps she needed to take to begin looking for employment.
What are some of the benefits of employment?
The benefits of employment are much more than simply money. These benefits include: 1)improved self esteem, 2) increased social and quality of life, 3) better control of symptoms, and 4) reduced substance abuse. In fact, studies have shown that working can actually improve your mental health helping to spur on recovery.
What kind of supportive employment services are available?
Anyone can use the workforce centers which are one stop shop locations. Most of the services are free. There are 13 workforce centers in the Twin Cities and 36 workforce centers in greater Minnesota. Each workforce center offers a wealth of self-help information on preparing for and finding jobs, computers you can use, and trained staff to assist. Some workforce centers even have employment counselors who work specifically with people living with mental illness.
My case manager suggested I receive IPS services. What is IPS?
Individual placement and support, or IPS, is an evidence based program that assists people living with serious mental illness to quickly seek and maintain employment. IPS is a team based program with a vocational rehabilitation counselor, employment specialist and mental health care provider. Your team will help guide you to “competitive employment” which is defined as employment in the community open to all others that pays a competitive wage. Once employed, the members on your team will help you to address issues that arise so that you have the support you need to maintain working.
How do I sign up for IPS Services?
You can receive a referral from your case manager. If you do not have a case manager then you will need a referral from a therapist or psychiatrist to the IPS community rehabilitation provider in your county. While all seven metro area counties have IPS programs, the program is not found in all counties in greater Minnesota.
If you need assistance in finding how to locate your IPS community rehab provider or how to access supportive employment services, please call Mental Health Minnesota at 651-493-6634 and ask to speak with a Peer Advocate.