My Personal Journey – Mental Health Awareness Month

Guest Blog By: Jode Freyholtz-London, Executive Director – Wellness in the Woods

Did you ever have to write an essay in school, maybe 2nd grade about “what I want to be when I grow up”? If I recall… this was 50 years ago….. mine was something like being a teacher or a nurse, a position appropriate for women in the rural part of Minnesota I grew up in. Life didn’t exactly work out the way I had planned at the age of 7. In fact I didn’t attend college until I was 40+ years old. I certainly didn’t write having a mental health crisis into that essay.

I have never left central, rural Minnesota and consider this part of the world my lifelong home. In 2005 after spending most of my career working to support people who live with a mental health diagnosis, I became the person who had to seek services. My introduction to depression, anxiety and eventually the “title” of Post Traumatic Stress Disordered person was Sept 18th, 2005 when after an initial phone call to the crisis line, I drug myself into my local TCHC clinic to visit with my most wonderful, life-saving nurse practitioner, Amy Severson. She took the time to actually ask me what was happening in my life and not just look for “what was wrong with me”.

The total lack of light and joy in my life at that point led me to thoughts of suicide, hopelessness and fear of an unknown future. This experience, which I now believe was a learning opportunity gave me the knowledge and perception to live life on the “other side of support”. I was fortunate to have a group of colleagues in the mental health field to guide me into a path of recovery. Their care and compassion along with prayers of support, phone calls, handholding and plenty of hugs, partnered with professionals that made the way though the darkest moments bearable.

Jode advocating on the Hill in 2014

Jode advocating on the Hill in 2014

In May, mental health awareness month, we celebrate what recovery means to the 61.5 million people or 25% in the US who live with a mental illness. We know from recent needs assessments that people in our community do not seek treatment because of the stigma and fear surrounding the label of “mentally ill” and so suffer for years in their own internal pain. It is our responsibility as a “caring” community to be courageous enough to reach out to our neighbors and family members, to say the uncomfortable words associated with emotional struggles and highlight the story of what living in recovery can mean in the lives of those who find the support needed to move forward.

Jode’s Bio: She is the founder and executive director of Wellness in the Woods and has worked in the non-profit, human services field for over 30 years. She has experience as a mental health practitioner, an employment specialist, program coordination in chemical dependency and supported employment programs, advocacy, crisis response and stabilization, certified peer specialist, QPR instructor and wellness trainer.

*If you are one of the millions struggling with depression or other life issues, visit our website at http://www.tchc.org/service-psychiatry to see the resources we have available at Tri-County Health Care. We want to help you feel better. Click www.tchc.org or call 218-631-1100 to make an appointment with one of our qualified providers.

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