Tag: support

Benson Langat 

What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?

Upon my arrival in America, I was greeted by the frigid embrace of winter, presenting a significant challenge for me as a track athlete. The absence of transportation and friends compounded my difficulties, requiring a rapid outdoor running adjustment. During weekends, when not engaged in competition, I often found myself alone in my apartment, a mile from the nearest grocery store and other essential amenities. I was compelled to traverse the streets day and night on foot. In the absence of classes, isolation became my constant companion, and I began to experience the weight of depression as I grappled with the resettlement process in a foreign land. 

Life became an arduous journey, and in my struggle to cope with the stress and solitude, I turned to overeating, which detrimentally affected my performance as a college athlete. My depression was further exacerbated by a multitude of stressors, including adapting to a new language, the demands of academics, economic challenges, unfamiliar food, and divergent religious practices. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

I joined a support group for international students and athletes, providing a sense of community and a space to share your experiences and feelings with others who may be going through similar challenges. I was also paired with a host family, which made everything better. I also kept an open line of communication with my track coach and professors, explaining my challenges and seeking their support or accommodations if needed. I was reminded that addressing these challenges may be an ongoing process, and reaching out for help and support is essential when needed.  

 

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

One of the most damaging aspects of the current system is the stigma associated with mental health issues. People often hesitate to seek help due to fear of judgment. Promoting awareness and acceptance of mental health conditions can help reduce this stigma. Public education campaigns and open conversations about mental health can contribute to this effort. 

 

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?

Many people who struggle with mental health or have suicidal thoughts often suffer in silence due to stigma, fear, or shame. It’s crucial for everyone to recognize that talking openly about mental health challenges is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength and courage. Encouraging individuals to share their feelings and experiences without judgment can create a supportive environment where they feel heard and understood. 

 

 

Nichelle Lund 

What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?

I’ve always struggled with some form of mental health issues, specifically anxiety and obsessive worrying, which would happen very cyclically throughout my childhood and young adult life. Since moving to South Dakota, living so far away from my family and childhood friends, I’ve noticed that I struggle significantly more, less with worrying and more with depressive episodes. Winter has regularly been my downfall, coupled with a physical assault at the beginning of the pandemic (3/20), limited mental health resources, and the idea that “I just need to pick myself up and dust myself off, I can handle this.” 

My “oh shit” moment came on a dreary February morning in 2023. I hit (another) pothole, and I got so angry. I was mad that the pothole wasn’t big enough to swallow my car whole, with me in it, because then at least it wouldn’t be my fault. Shortly thereafter I lost a good friend unexpectedly, and the intrusive thoughts got worse, but always with the tinge of – “as long as it’s not my fault.” I don’t want people to think I did it to myself. I was okay with dying, but I didn’t want to do it. Somewhere along the way, I knew I was in big trouble. March has never been my friend – but this year was particularly bad. I cried every day on the way to and from work with just a heaviness in my chest that I could not escape. 

I smiled, did my job, volunteered, and made sure things in my life got handled, but I was just doing what needed to be done to not show anyone the cracks. I was playing a part in my own life and not owning any of it. I didn’t really care about anything. 

I’ve never asked for anything from family or friends – I offered help and support and was right there when people needed me, or even when I thought they might need me. So when I hit the proverbial “rock bottom” and no one was around to help, I knew I was in trouble. When you’re always the helper, it makes it so much harder to ask for help. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

I started out using the BetterHelp therapy app around mid-March. I switched providers a few times trying to find the right fit. I finally found one that was good, but not great. Our sessions were only 30 minutes, and by the time I got into the meat of the issues, the session was over and no solutions were available. She recommended me to a foundation that specialized in helping women who were the victims of violent crimes. They referred me to a local therapist with Moore Counseling Group where I could receive EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing) therapy. This helps me to both process the most recent trauma and desensitize triggers that had been established during childhood and my youth. 

Because of this therapy, I’ve learned that my voice had been stifled, I didn’t have any boundaries, and I didn’t trust anyone to be there for me when and if I asked them to be. I’m learning and healing a little bit more every week.

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities? 

We have started making mental health a mainstream conversation, and that is SO important. For people to see themselves, their thoughts, feelings, and experiences portrayed in others, so they know they aren’t alone, is a massive improvement from where we were 5, 10, 20+ years ago. 

I think the biggest struggle is buy-in from generations that believe you just need to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. The folks that think therapists and counselors are only there to pacify you and collect your insurance money. 

Normalizing mental health is important, but normalizing going to therapy is going to be just as important in the future, which also means beefing up the programs in schools that promote education in that field and the importance of healing from the inside first. 

 

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?

If someone has a single vulnerable moment in front of you and then brushes it off, don’t ignore it. Just because they say “I’ll be fine” doesn’t mean they will. They probably don’t know how to ask for help. That’s not something everyone learns growing up. 

 

Erika Tordsen 

What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?

In 2019, my husband Tyler and I were expecting our first baby, due in March 2020. A baby boy. We were over the moon scared, nervous, and everything in between to become parents but excited, nonetheless. Then the pandemic restrictions happened the week I gave birth, so Tyler was the only one allowed in the room for our son’s birth. All of my feelings of excitement and happiness were quickly replaced with uncertainty and sadness. The months that followed our son’s birth were the darkest months of my life. I was a new mom who wasn’t able to have the help of family or friends because we just didn’t know what was going to happen next. Is this new virus going to kill my baby? Is my husband, who has a pre-existing condition, going to die if he gets it? We had so much worry and fear during that time that we never truly got to enjoy being first-time parents and all the joys that come with it.
 

I lost myself in postpartum anxiety and cried every single day for months. Phone calls, FaceTiming, and texting just weren’t enough. I was happiest when I was asleep because I didn’t have to feel all of the worry and fear. I constantly looked on social media and compared myself to other mothers. I felt “less than” because I was struggling, forgotten because no one could come to see us, and cheated because of the pandemic. Fortunately, I have a great husband who was patient with me and understood that I was hurting and struggling. He took care of me and allowed me to feel things without question. During that time, I found a new purpose of being a mother and I wanted to be better for my son. Eventually, I was able to get past the worry and fear, and as we started to learn more about COVID, I could enjoy being just a mama finally. We won’t remember 2020 as the year of COVID-19 but as the year of our son, Emmett. And although it took a while, I was able to feel like myself again, and a year and a half later, our second son was born. He gave me the experience I was supposed to have but both experiences shaped me into the mother I am today and I’m forever grateful for my two boys and my supportive husband. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

During the first few weeks after giving birth, my lactation consultant helped with the breastfeeding piece and reassured me that I was doing it correctly because that was a challenge in itself. Since everything was virtual, I reached out to family and friends via phone for support and made a post on my social media, which led to other mothers reaching out. They gave advice and shared their struggles too. After that, I created a Facebook group for moms to be able to ask questions and seek advice from other mothers without judgment or question. I started seeing a therapist who turned out not to be the right fit, so I asked questions and made a switch to my current therapist who is amazing! She is perfect for my needs on the mental health piece of it and also culturally. 

 

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities? 

I would love to see more awareness about the differences between postpartum depression, anxiety, baby blues, etc. We get pamphlets and words that explain what these are but actually hearing from a mother who experienced this before a mom gives birth would be 10 times more helpful. We are raising the next generation, and it is the hardest job. I wish I had someone to tell me the straight-up truth about how differently I would feel after giving birth. The fourth trimester is the hardest one of them all. 

 

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?

It’s okay to rest and take care of yourself. We live in a society where hustle culture is glorified and if you’re not grinding, you’re failing. It’s not a bad thing to be ambitious and a go-getter, but it’s also okay to take a break, breathe, and reset. 

 

Kelli Swenson

What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?

On May 30, 2022, I lost my sweet, sweet dad to suicide.  

Before suicide personally affected my family, I was like many. I thought that suicide only affected people who have always struggled with mental health, had recently experienced severe trauma, or had difficult home lives. I was so wrong.  

Suicide does NOT discriminate and can affect anyone. My dad did not check any previous beliefs about who suicide affects. He was happily married and had five kids who loved him dearly. He ran a successful company for many years, Swenson Bros Marine, and had just entered into a place of semi-retirement. He was always our biggest cheerleader and had the biggest smile on his face. In a small community, he was the one who was always called on for help, and he never let anyone down. He was always the “man for the job” and took care of anyone and everyone he could.   

In the months before his death, my dad had been making many plans for his newfound “freedom” and was looking forward to trips with friends and family, watching his kids grow, spoiling grandkids, and enjoying many days boating and relaxing on the Missouri River with his family and friends … one of his favorite things to do in the entire world.  

With one phone call, my world changed forever. My dad was always the one I could go to for help, for advice, to celebrate, to cry… he was truly “the man for the job” – and he was no longer here. Between telling my 10-year-old youngest brother how his dad died, to hearing story after story of how my dad helped someone else in the same spot, he found himself in before taking his own life, to learning how my dad cared for and supported others (many who were strangers) nearly daily without any recognition… The days and weeks following my dad’s death were the hardest times of my life. The world is dimmer without his love and light.  

A year later, I still grieve my dad every single day. Suicide robbed my dad, and everyone he loved, of so much. My family’s hearts will ache over the loss of my dad forever, but we also know there is so much more joy ahead. And we hold onto that.  

I’ll end by sharing the last paragraph of my dad’s obituary: “Jimmer cared about everyone so much that he forgot to take care of himself. If you are struggling or feel lost, please reach out to one of us or someone you love. There is no judgment, no condemnation. You are not alone, you matter, and you are loved.”

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

I have an incredible family and significant other who have — time and time again — given me the space and ability to share my feelings and emotions. I have also read multiple books and listened to many podcasts on mental health and suicide. I also hold tightly to my faith in Jesus and the promises I have that I will be able to hug my dad and hear his laugh again, someday.  

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects of it that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

In the year 2021, 

  • South Dakota experienced its highest suicide death rate ever recorded. (22.6 deaths per 100,000) 
  • Suicide was the leading cause of death among ages 10-29 in SD. (2021) 
  • South Dakota had the 7th highest suicide rate in the US.  

We talk until we are blue in the face about the dangers of drugs, not wearing seatbelts, drinking and driving, etc. … commercials and billboards galore—but we are failing to have open, honest conversations to discuss one of the leading causes of death of people in our state.  

Mental health and suicide both have a stigma attached to them, but they shouldn’t. Mental health IS health, and we need to strive to become comfortable with the uncomfortable… It’s time we step into the arena, share our stories, and start shining light into the darkness. By sharing our stories, we let others know they are not alone.  

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?

I know it sounds cliché… but truly, the world is a better place with you in it. You are not alone, you matter and you are so, so loved.

 

Patrick Murphy

What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?

I had a pretty ideal childhood growing up. My parents and my brothers are great, but for some reason, I had a lot of anxiety. I fought depression, struggled with my weight, and excelled at overthinking just about everything. This stayed with me all throughout my life. A lot of this came to a crucial point in 2016-17. My wife and I were living in Dickinson, ND. We were ready to try and have kids. Unfortunately, thus far we have been unsuccessful. This hit us very hard. I felt unworthy as a husband. I was scared that my wife would leave me or resent us and our marriage. I should’ve trusted her better, because she is still here and stronger than ever. Anyway, I tried dealing with this, but I wound up burying it under denial, seeking comfort in food. I was depressed but got very good at denying it. In 2018 we moved back home to Rapid City, my hometown. We bought a beautiful home. The depression reared its head again, and the anxiety was worse than ever. You can be blessed beyond your wildest dreams and still feel empty inside. I felt alone, unworthy as a husband with extra bedrooms with no kids of our own. I was anxious all the time. I started to think that if I killed myself my wife could have a chance to start over with someone better. That was the wake-up call. I can tell you how scary it feels to formulate the cleanest method of suicide to not be a burden on your wife.

That’s when I ran to God. I gave my life to Jesus when I was 12 years old. Yet, somehow I found myself here in this place. I wrote a book of poetry that I self-published while battling these thoughts and feelings. It made me see the scripture Jeremiah 29:11 stands true. God desires to prosper us, not to harm us. To give us hope and a future.

I went to church, I confided in my wife, in friends, and men of God that I trust. I went to my doctor here in Rapid City and told her I was anxious all the time. I took anxiety medication to help me change how I approach life, and how I think and treat myself. Since March of 2023, I’ve lost 50 pounds! I have a long way to go, but I’m going. This has been five years of discovery. And reminders that anxiety doesn’t own me, depression doesn’t own me. I am a son of God saved by His Son, Christ Jesus. Starting this fall I am beginning a new journey to go to school to get a degree in counseling. So, if you read this or hear this, don’t give up. You have a purpose and can change someone’s life.

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

My doctor prescribed anxiety medication. I also spoke to my wife. Close friends. I also want to mention pastors Jason and Tim Stuen here in Rapid City.

 

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

Advertising mental health services so people know where opportunities are. I also want men to feel like it’s okay to admit they’re struggling with anxiety or depression.

 

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?

It’s a process. If you or someone you care about deal with mental health issues, it’s a daily exercise. Celebrate good days. Listen and encourage.

 

 

Jasmin Fosheim

What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?

I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for around six years, brought on by a high-stress job and a drive to achieve that manifests in never feeling like I’m enough. I’ve learned to overcome these challenges with various resources and lifestyle changes, and I’ve grown in so many ways as a result.

When I had my first child, Josie, in 2020 in the middle of COVID-19, I found that not only would I continue to battle my anxiety and depression, but I was also thrown into the tornado that is postpartum depression and anxiety. I climbed my way out, however, and went on to continue to grow and thrive.

Two years later, I found myself in the middle of moving from Hettinger, ND to Pierre, SD, switching careers, and managing major health issues with my daughter Josie and myself (including gallbladder removal at 30 weeks pregnant). When I went into preterm labor at 33 weeks the night after moving the remainder of our belongings from Hettinger to Pierre, I began the most challenging mental health battle of my life. Caring from afar for a toddler who couldn’t understand why mommy and daddy disappeared for over a month was heart-wrenching, and her mental health tanked. Spending time in the NICU in the midst of a move and career change for over a month was almost more than I could handle. And the postpartum anxiety and depression that overwhelmed me when I finally arrived home with my family, all of us shaken to our core, nearly broke me.

I persevered, however, and am now thriving with two healthy babies and a happy family in my hometown. The journey to get here, though, was the toughest thing I’ve ever experienced.

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Having a mom support group of friends who were also moms was immensely helpful. In addition, I accessed counseling and medications, and I had an OBGYN who was an AMAZING advocate for mental health care postpartum for both moms and dads.

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

People need to see the people who are seemingly happy and successful sharing their vulnerabilities and the steps they’ve taken to better themselves. Without that exposure, people will continue to believe mental health care isn’t for them. In addition, rural access to mental health care is atrocious, and the fact that health care costs could ever be a deterrent for people pursuing mental health services is a gross injustice in the system of mental health and healthcare in general. We need people brave enough to share their journey (which is why this project is AMAZING, and I’ve thought so since its inaugural year), communities willing to invest innovatively to ensure services are available, and systemic change that ensures affordability of services that are vital to survival for many.

 

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?

Mental health care is for everyone, and everyone can benefit from therapy. Connect with a counselor now so when the days are dark and getting out of bed is hard you’re not having to seek someone out and overcome the obstacles of the system. Having a relationship established when you’re OK makes reaching out and getting help when you’re not OK SO much easier.

 

 

Mato James Abourezk

What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?

I had to deal with recovery from surgeries from age 5 to 15. This wasn’t exactly an ideal way to grow up. Because of this, I developed anxiety and depression at a young age, but it wasn’t until I was 19 going to college at Black Hills State University that I had thoughts of suicide and attempted to end my life. All my feelings ambushed me. I was away from home, I hadn’t gotten over surgeries and what I had been through, I hadn’t accepted myself and who I wanted to be. I was alone.

Then I was told a story by my mom about how I should’ve died when I was born but I didn’t, that I was supposed to be a vegetable my whole life, but I wasn’t. This hit me hard, because I thought to myself, “I didn’t fight that hard my WHOLE life just to give up now.” So I didn’t. I kept moving toward my goals of being in the entertainment industry and having a family. I am now in a place where it looks like I’ll be in the entertainment industry, and I have just recently gotten engaged. This is my story. I am resilient.

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

I would say a support system consisting of my family, friends, and mentors helped me climb out of my hole. I began going to counseling and hanging out with family and friends more often, whether it was through the Boys Health Program at YFS or just a family dinner. I had support and understanding from them. 

 

Based on your experience, how can we work to build resilience in ourselves, our loved ones, and in our communities to better face life’s challenges? 

It may sound cliché, but I think belief in one’s self and recognizing one’s potential as a person goes a long way. The problem is that it’s hard to see that in ourselves because we are so self-conscious, so if we point that out to our loved ones, it can really help a person be confident in what they can do. This leads to pushing a person past what they previously thought they could reach. 

 

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?

You are NOT alone. You are LOVED. You are HEARD. 

 

Elsie Zajicek

What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?

I would say my story started at Brandon Valley High School where I was a knock-out athlete. I was always told in high school I was going places and going to do amazing things. So I tried living up to everyone’s fairytale. I practiced hard, I worked out after games we lost, and I even made myself throw up to get faster. Then I headed to college to start my collegiate volleyball journey, and I found myself with a full-blown eating disorder. My roommates called my mom and told her what was going on. I was ashamed and so lost. The next thing I knew, my roommate was bringing me to see a nutritionist—she had to bring me because otherwise I would literally always bail. I hated every step of this getting better journey. Next was a doctor’s appointment back home with my mom and primary care. This was an eye-opening appointment as I was diagnosed for the first time with an eating disorder and depression. I’m now graduated and in full recovery. I could not be more proud of myself nor could I imagine doing it alone.

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Eating disorders in athletes are very common and not talked about. I would have to dig to even find a global resource. What I found helpful is Victory Garrick’s TED Talk and her resources. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sdk7pLpbIls

Locally, I’ve created a blog that sheds light on the journey in hope to make you feel less alone and hopefully laugh at yourself a little! https://elsiezajicek1.wixsite.com/justedthings

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

Personally, I struggled with social media. I have now been able to tailor it so that I see very healthy posts when I log on. I think this is deeply rooted for many of us, when children are so often in front of screens. Getting away from the screen and connecting to the soil really played a big role in my recovery.

 

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?

It truly is one day at a time.

 

 

 

Chesney Garnos 

What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?

My life changed one fall evening in 2014. I was about to catch a volleyball game with some friends from high school in my small hometown. One group member was not answering his phone, so I decided to swing by his house to see what was taking so long. When I walked through the door, I found him attempting to take his life.

At 18 years old, I had never been educated on how to handle the situation—suicide was not often discussed, especially in rural South Dakota. I decided to intervene and help my friend in the best way I knew at the time. Luckily, this friend of mine is still alive today. I often reflect on that moment and think about how fortunate I was that this situation did not end up differently, as I later found out there were better ways to handle that situation.

Shortly after my friend’s suicide attempt, I lost two former cross-country teammates to suicide. I mourned and searched for answers. How, as individuals and as a community, could we be better? During this time, I also started therapy for myself. I also sought out solutions during this time. Not just for myself but for rural communities like the one I grew up in. Why weren’t the topics of mental health and suicide being discussed? This led to a research project with my professor at the University of South Dakota, which later became an organization called Break the Chains 17.  The organization’s goal was to go to rural communities and schools in South Dakota to provide education on bullying, share the warning sides of suicide, explain what to do in times of crisis, and provide resources for the students. The organization has recently rebranded and is now known as “The Unseen Struggle.” This transformation focuses on the mission of sharing stories related to mental health and increasing awareness about invisible illnesses/diseases. “The Unseen Struggle” will place a strong emphasis on education and the dissemination of inspirational narratives, all to break down the stigmas and provide hope around these significant subjects.

While I wouldn’t want anyone to go through the experiences mentioned earlier, it’s important to understand that these situations are not isolated incidents; they can potentially affect anyone. This is why having conversations and spreading awareness about these subjects is of utmost importance. By doing so, we contribute to the overall health and wellness of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities as a whole.

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

I grew up in a small rural community in South Dakota, where resources for dealing with mental health were limited at the time. When I began experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety, I felt ashamed and alone. Luckily, improved telehealth options are available for those in rural communities (so check into that)!

Once I started college, things changed. I began attending therapy sessions at the University of South Dakota’s counseling center, which I learned about through my sorority sisters. If you are in school, look into these resources! Upon being diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder and Seasonal Affective Disorder, I was fortunate to have supportive friends and family around me. Finding a group that will support you and your mental well-being is important.

It’s been nine years now! I’ve continued with therapy, and it’s been a game-changer. When things feel unmanageable for me, I try prioritizing baths, eight hours of sleep, cycling classes, making time blocks in my schedule, and ensuring I attend my therapy sessions! I’ve also used medication to manage my anxiety, and having a supportive primary care physician who prioritizes mental health has been crucial. Whether it is therapy or medication, know there are solutions out there for you to make things more manageable. It takes time, but it’s worth it!

 

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

Prevention, conversation, and education! We can build better prevention systems in our communities to help create a more resilient community that better addresses the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities. Starting the implementation of prevention, conversation, and education at earlier ages in our homes and in our schools is a great first step.

 

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?

Mental health challenges, suicidal thoughts/ideation, and suicide are not “selfish.” As individuals and as a community, we can all be better at understanding and supporting those who face any of these conditions.

 

 

Beverly Froslie Johnson

What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?

My son has autism and many other mental health diagnoses. He’s been in and out of multiple mental health facilities. Including spending 18 months in a PRTF (psychiatric residential treatment facility) in Salt Lake City. Our story was told in the Argus Leader in 2019: https://www.argusleader.com/story/news/2019/02/07/south-dakota-mental-health-jail-system/2701616002/

I was also able to get a law changed so children wouldn’t have to go through what my son did to get the help he needed. So far that law has been instrumental in getting the children the help they needed and successfully integrating students back to their home school.

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

DHS, Dept of Labor, ACLU, SFSD with Kristy Feden

 

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

The whole mental health system needs to be revamped. Departments need to work together and communicate. More training needs to be done with our police department and educational systems. SD needs facilities with experienced and well-trained staff for people/kids in crisis. Also, laws need to be changed and new ones passed.

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?

Show empathy and compassion. Never give up. In life, you will have pain whether it’s physical, emotional, or mental. Never give up. It will get better, and once you get through it, it’s the best feeling in the world that you overcame whatever you went through.

 

Krista Burns

What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?

I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety since I was in elementary school. I didn’t know that’s what I was dealing with until I went to a therapist in my late 20s. I attempted suicide when I was 18 and used to cut my hands. I contemplated suicide again in 2021. My friend told me I needed to go to Avera Behavioral Health right away. I ended up spending a week at the facility.

Since then I have had a therapist and psychologist who help me with my mental health. I also open up to my family, friends, and co-workers more when my depression or anxiety is starting to get bad.

I feel like my story can resonate with people who are dealing with mental health problems, but don’t feel like they can open up to anyone about it. I can also show that you can live with these disorders and manage them to lead a healthier and happier life.

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Avera Behavioral Health, therapists, psychologists, medications

 

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

There needs to be more education in schools and the community to tell people that it’s OK to not be OK, and also to teach family and friends how to speak with someone who has a mental illness. There also needs to be more affordable and easily accessible ways to talk with a therapist or psychologist.

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?

Don’t tell people that everything will be alright or that other people have it worse. Listen to the person who is struggling and offer them support and comfort.

 

Claire Litzen

What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?

Throughout high school, I struggled deeply with anxiety, an eating disorder, depression, and suicidal thoughts. It wasn’t until therapy that I was able to come to grips with my reality and seek out help.

I later experienced a ton of grief and loss due to family members passing away and my engagement ending.

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Therapy

Local groups: Theyself by Wake, The We Can Movement

 

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

Connecting with a community! I think that once you get in environments where you are able to share your struggles, you don’t feel as alone.

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?

Healing and growth are not linear.

 

Whitney Lucas Molitor

What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?

Growing up in Mission, SD, I saw firsthand how mental health and suicide can impact individuals, families, and entire communities. Although I saw people in my community impacted by suicide, it wasn’t until high school that I first began to realize just how dramatically the incidence of suicide in this area of the state was disproportionate to other communities. Today, Todd County remains in the top five counties in South Dakota with the highest rates of suicide, with teens and young adults most affected.

Although there have been times in my own life that I have struggled with balancing my mental health while also engaging in life and working to become the person I wanted to be, I have always been fortunate to have an immense support system of a family that has helped and supported me. I recognize that not everyone who finds themselves in a challenging time in their life can access the resources and services they may most benefit from.

This was one of the reasons that later in my life I began to explore how health disparities and the social determinants of health can influence mental and physical health. What I have learned over the years is that sizable disparities exist in South Dakota. They are based on factors such as where a person lives, their age, and their ethnicity. Native communities are dramatically more affected by suicide than other ethnic groups, despite programs and policies targeting these communities and individuals.

As an occupational therapist, I have seen other ways that mental health challenges affect individuals in South Dakota. Not only is mental health sometimes overlooked, but the most appropriate mental health care can be difficult to access. Despite a growing emphasis nationwide to address mental health, a stigma remains around asking for or receiving the help that may be most needed. Because of this, I remain passionate about advocating for access to mental health services and continuously working to better understand how to best promote mental health.

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Developing a support network of family and friends has been the most beneficial for me. Especially during times when I thought I was fine, having a trusted person who knows me well and not giving up on supporting me has made a big impact.

 

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

Continuing to work to de-stigmatize asking for and accepting help for mental health concerns is needed in our society. Working to make it the norm to get the help and resources that are needed to address mental health in an easily accessible way is critical. This process needs to start early in life when children develop lifelong habits that can contribute to their mental and physical health throughout their entire life.

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?

Managing mental health is a lifelong journey that everyone faces in some way. While we never truly reach a point where we no longer need to pay attention to our mental health, over time we can develop skills that will make this journey seem easier. Being a resource and support when someone is facing a challenging time in their life and doing so with grace and compassion is important.

 

Robert L Burandt

What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?

Having a lifelong disease takes perseverance, persistence, and an understanding that it’s OK to be not OK. It’s easier in our society to understand physical health more than mental health. Having learned I have bipolar in 2008, I worked very hard with therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and myself to understand how to manage and live with this lifelong disease. I finally got to the point of remission, a thing I didn’t even know was possible with this disease.

I have been a resource and advocate for others by creating a sports association in Sioux Falls. A similar outlet was available in my hometown of Minneapolis and was an invaluable resource. I even became a mental health first aid responder in 2022. With all of that knowledge, experience, and time, I still faltered.

In May of 2023, I saw myself dying by suicide in two vivid scenarios. I did not want this to become a reality, but I forgot everything I knew. I was so busy helping everybody else that I forgot to help myself first. It finally became too much, and I had to ask for help. This time was different, though—I knew that it was OK to not be OK. I had talked about my struggle openly for years, and when I finally succumbed to needing help, I was surrounded by it. I did not feel ashamed this time. I felt as though I was actually doing the right thing. This was my “drink your juice, Shelby” moment, and I was parched.

While at work, I reached out to my manager and a co-worker who led me to the right place. I completed an outpatient intensive therapy program at Avera Behavioral Health and am seeing a therapist at Sanford Health regularly. I still openly talk about my experience(s) to others and am once again able to be a resource for those who need it.

My tunnel has found light again, and I am ready for what’s next.

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Avera Behavioral Health (outpatient intensive care program), Sanford therapy, Lost&Found, Sioux Empire Pride Sports Association, 988, co-workers, family & friends.

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

I believe that we have come a long way from where we were, but we still have a long way to go. I will do what I can, for as long as I can to speak to the importance of the whole health of individuals. Being silent is the worst thing I can do for others. I will continue to advocate for better coverage, access, and awareness of resources available.

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?

No matter how dark the road, light will always shine, even if just a flicker. Stay here. You are worth it.

 

Michelle (Williams) Seten 

What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?

My biological parents went through a difficult divorce when I was very young. Immediately after that, I endured neglect and severe physical abuse within the household. Going into my adolescence and teen years, I was also a victim of multiple sexual assaults and rapes. My first sexual assault was when I was 14, and soon after was my first rape. I struggled with depression and low self-worth at a very young age, which trickled into young adulthood. My relationship choices reflected how I put up with my partners’ treatment and how I felt about myself. I had multiple sexual assaults in my twenties as well. Depression has never left me, even as a social worker/therapist myself—it doesn’t discriminate.

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Honestly, I was too proud to reach out for help until this year (2023) because I thought I could just deal with it on my own. I knew I had never properly dealt with my trauma or how it continued to affect me in my adult life, and I finally decided it was time for proper self-care. I found a great therapist and began the difficult journey of processing through everything and facing my demons.

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

Therapy is expensive. Waitlists to get into psychiatrists for proper medication management are way too long. Treatment for substance abuse is also expensive and isn’t near long enough to actually treat the cycle of addiction. Law Enforcement needs more extensive training on mental health crises, also the way suicidal and mental health patients are treated in our jail system needs to be addressed.

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?

It’s not something I wish on anyone. It’s a very excruciating silent struggle that people go through, and it’s just so hard to really explain to someone who has never had a thought of literally wanting to not be on earth anymore. I can be a fully functioning adult and put on a smile all day but internally, I’m screaming and aching in pain because I’m just so exhausted about “being.”

 

Amanda Kriens

What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?

My very first memory is somewhere around 3-4 years old at a funeral of a family member. I remember sitting on the lap of a woman who was weeping, and I had no idea why. Years later I found out that that funeral was her brother who had died by suicide. In my teen years, another family member died by suicide. She had mailed me a birthday card every single year until she was gone. In 2018 my cousin whom I was very close with and was very close to my kids, died by suicide. I had dropped my children at school and was driving to my grandmother’s house when I came to a roadblock due to an accident. A short hour later I found out that it was my cousin, Landry. I remember hearing the sound of my grandmother’s heart breaking while I held her in my arms and her son told her her grandson was gone. I had to sit my three children down and tell them. I had talked to two school counselors and a child therapist along with our pastor to make sure I was doing it right. What’s the right way to tell a 7, 9, and 11-year-old something like that? The very first time my 7-year-old had an anxiety attack was the day of the funeral. Our entire family went to therapy, and it took months for the sweet little girl to realize she could still be safe away from home and mama. All of this was affecting my own mental health, but my priority was my children, and I ignored the signs.  

In March of 2022 I started having severe anxiety and moderate depression. I had experienced a brief time of this after Landry’s passing and had some minor postpartum depression after my third child, but this was completely different than anything I had felt before. I would be driving home from work and have an overwhelming urge to drive off the road. I would think about just escaping the pain, and then I would think of my husband and our kids and would feel so incredibly selfish. I was in so much emotional pain, but I didn’t tell anyone. I was too embarrassed. I was surrounded by so many loving friends and family, but I was too ashamed to tell anyone. This happened to other people but not me. I had even done safety counseling with a family member the year before, not even knowing what I was doing had a name. But me? I didn’t have these kinds of problems, I told myself. But I did.  

I eventually made an appointment with my primary care practitioner. I filled out the PHQ-9 and GAD 7, forms that screen for depression and anxiety, and I was sky-high on both. I sat in the office and cried, and the nurse just slid the Kleenex box over to me and said the doctor would be in shortly. I waited 54 minutes for the doctor. I had told my sister I was going in, and I texted her from the doctor’s office asking her if she thought they were lining someone up to come haul me away. My primary care provider referred me to a specialist and started me on medication. I wasn’t overly impressed. I started seeing the therapist I had seen after Landry had passed and realized most of this was coming on due to the extreme amount of stress I had in my life at that time. With my therapist’s help, I made some major life changes. One of them was that left a fifteen-year career in banking to pursue a career in behavioral health. I had so much compassion for those struggling, and I couldn’t stop reading and learning about the brain, mental health, coping skills, mindfulness, anything I could get my hands or eyes on pertaining to the subject. Knowledge is power. I needed some power. I found my strength. I prayed a lot and met with a career counselor. I have been working in behavioral health now for 15 months. In my healing journey I have relied heavily on my relationship with God, practiced self-care and mindfulness, and got back to journaling. I eliminated as much stress as I could, but life is life. My brother Tulley who truly was my mind-reading, attentive, kind, best buddy for 35 years, had been struggling with alcohol addiction. We finally got him to go to treatment this fall, and after discharge, he relapsed. Three weeks ago he died due to complications from alcoholic hepatitis after spending 52 days in the hospital. I am afraid of what this could do. I have been doing so well the last year. I am not currently on medication, but I am practicing all of the skills I have learned and I teach. Helping others in their healing journey has helped me. I know grief will need to be processed and felt, and I have had and will have moments of deep deep sadness, but I do believe I can get through this. I know there is help if I struggle. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

  • Reverence Counseling-Jodi Merritt (for myself) 
  • Stronghold Counseling (in the past for my children) 
  • Sanford Psych (medication management) 
  • Avera Addiction Family Program (Support for me and my parents with brother’s addiction) 
  • QPR (learned how to help other’s (and myself) in crisis and am now an instructor) 
  • Mental Health First Aid Adult and Youth (Use this knowledge both professionally and personally) 
  • Avera Behavioral Outpatient-Brookings (most amazing co-workers ever and provide exceptional service in the Brookings area) 

 

For others: 

  • 988 (Have referred many to this for after hours help or in crisis and don’t want to or can’t go in) 
  • Avera Behavioral Urgent Care (Refer those who are in crisis and have strong suicidal urges) 
  • Avera Adolescent Addiction (teens struggling with addiction) 

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects of it that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

I think breaking the stigma of struggling with mental health and/or addiction would do wonders for allowing people to reach out to their loved ones without feeling shame (whether actual shame or self-imposed shame). 

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?

You can feel better! You don’t have to stay stuck. You are going to have to take action and use your tools, and there are many, but YOU CAN DO IT!!  

 

Nikki Eining

What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?

On the first day of my sophomore year of high school, my best friend was killed in a head-on car collision. Two months later, my father had a brain aneurysm and was hospitalized for 31 days. That same year, in December, we lost my aunt to breast cancer. At 15, I was surrounded by death, loss, and grief, with no ability to process or understand why all of these things that were out of my control had occurred. With a history of experiencing maltreatment, this loss was devastating and allconsuming. I remember not wanting to go to school, not wanting to go to my job, and beginning to give up. I had quit things I enjoyedextracurricular activities, athletics, and more.  

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Safe and supportive relationships. My friends, friends’ parents, neighbors, and aunts and uncles supported me when my parents were at the hospital for those 31 days. My student resource officerwho went above and beyond his job description was the one to tell me about my best friends accident and supported our class during such a difficult time. Teachers rallied for us to take care of one another. One day in the spring, following the fall when all of these losses occurred, I was at home having thoughts of what is the point anymore, and my SRO showed up and talked to me about not giving up on myself and even helped get me to school that day. I remember being in geography class and my friend telling our teacher, who was my golf coach, to let me rejoin the team because I needed it. So many people showed up at a time they did not have to, or when it was not part of their job description. It saved my life. 

 

Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?

We have to prioritize relationships over following the rules and complacency. We have to prioritize relationships over economic brackets and cliques. The potential in each of us is worth protecting. It takes safe, supportive, and appropriately challenging adults and peers to help us reach our potential when there are factors hindering it. 

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?

Our choice in how we show up in our relationships and our interactions with others matters. Greatly. 

 

Melissa Dittberner

What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?   

Fourteen years ago (this month), I was a full-time welder and single mother without a high school education. I was working 50-60 hours a week at a job that made me miserable but paid the bills. After a long, hard-headed struggle with management that did not love a woman working in a man’s world, I was fired. I cleaned my locker and skipped out of that place singing with joy, literally (they were not happy about that either). I was too stubborn to quit even though I knew it was best to get out of that toxic situation.  

Being fired was an absolute blessing in hindsight. I was immediately happy that I would be able to see my kids more, to be the mom I wanted to be again. But I was also pretty fearful about what life had in store for me next. Having two young children with no financial support was terrifying to say the least. After a week of enjoying my kids and my free time I started working on my general education degree (GED) classes. I achieved my GED in about a month and applied to a university. 

I had learned grit in my past —like becoming a welder so that I could leave my abusive ex, and staying sober after struggling with drug misuse and taking the uphill path at every turn. I knew I had to dig deep, and those hard grit lessons really came into play again. I am a first-generation college student with little outside support. I felt as if I was on a raft with my two children, floating alone in the ocean.  

But I was able to jump through all the fiery hoops that higher education threw at me. Not knowing any better, I took out enough loans to buy a large company, and I studied endlessly. I received my bachelor’s degree in health sciences and I was inducted into an honors society, I achieved a master’s degree in addiction studies and did not stop there. I was accepted into a PhD program, wrote a dissertation and became a doctor. I received a doctorate degree in counseling and psychology in education. I am a ninth-grade high school dropout and people call me DOCTOR! #GEDtoPhD  

I had no idea getting fired would take me to right where I am today, but I am so grateful it did. I am a lecturer at a university. I have dedicated my life to teaching others about stigma, compassion, grit, dedication, addiction, trauma, how to help others and how to be the best version of themselves. My mission is to help people learn to help themselves and others. Cheers to change. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?  

My community! 

 

Based on your experience, how can we work to build resilience in ourselves, our loved ones, and in our communities to better face life’s challenges? 

We have to have support for people who are struggling. No one needs to feel as if they are floating alone in the ocean. We need to have wrap-around services for people in need. We need to strengthen our communities and families by coming together to work for a greater good. We need to find our motivations and follow them. 

 

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand? 

I wish people realized the power that is inside them. Passion and grit will take you a long way.