Mental health forum slated for Anoka County

by Elyse Kaner
Staff Writer

A suicide awareness organization will host a mental health forum for Anoka County residents.

An event for Anoka County residents called “Let’s Talk About It” will address mental wellness. The Feb. 27 event at Fridley High School, 6000 West Moore Lake Drive, starts with free pizza at 5:30 p.m. and resource fair followed by a keynote speaker and adult and youth panel discussions. The public is invited.

SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) and Anoka County are partnering to present a “Let’s Talk About It, Anoka County” event Monday, Feb. 27 at Fridley High School.

The community is invited to the free event starting with pizza (at no charge) and a resource fair at 5:30 p.m. A program and panel discussions will follow.

The program, with a sub title of “Mental Health is as Important as Physical Health,” is the third in a four-part series addressing mental health, mental wellness and suicide prevention.

The event is intended to raise people’s awareness of mental health issues, to create community conversations and actions and to provide resources and support to Anoka County residents.

National expert to speak

Dan Reidenberg, executive director of SAVE and a U.S. representative to the International Association of Suicide Prevention, opens the program with a keynote address. Reidenberg is a nationally renowned suicide prevention expert.

The discussion portion of the event will feature a panel of some six students telling their stories, followed by a second panel of adults. The adult panel comprises local community experts: teachers, clinicians and consumers who have dealt with mental health matters, including school and social services. Reidenberg will moderate.

“What we’re really looking for is success stories,” said Dave Clausen, director of marketing and communications for SAVE.

The hope is to get dialogue going so people will not be afraid to talk about mental health, he said.

One in four adults experience a mental illness during any given year, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. For youth, about one in eight to 12 live with mental illness.

“Studies have show that early recognition and treatment are critical components to successful long-term treatment of these illness,” Reidenberg said in a written statement. “As a community, the earlier we can identify those around us who are at risk, the less likely they will be to suffer the long-term consequences of these illnesses.”

All ages invited 

Two “Let’s Talk” events have already taken place. The first was in October 2011 at Anoka High School. About 300 guests attended. The second event in December 2011 was at St. Francis High School, with an attendance of about 100 people.

The series is funded by a public-private partnership, comprising Anoka County community health and mental health departments, the Mental Wellness Campaign of Anoka County, SAVE, Allina Hospitals and Clinics and a ROSE grant from the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center Auxiliary.

Clausen is hoping for an audience of about 500 or more – the Fridley auditorium seats 700 – at the Feb. 27 event.

Guests of all ages are invited. Pain and depression does not discriminate among age groups.

“Suicide cuts across all ages and spectrums,” Clausen said.

A fourth “Let’s Talk About It” session is planned for Centennial High School. A date has not been set at this time.

“We’re trying to knock down walls of silence so help can be given,” Clausen said.

Fridley High School is located at 6000 West Moore Lake Drive.

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Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]