By Beth Clay, Executive Director

The Northeast Wisconsin Mental Health Connection and its members are excited to host the 7th annual Mental Health Awareness Month kick-off event in Appleton on Thursday, May 9. Click here for details: bit.ly/2019KickoffEventPage

The theme of this year’s kickoff and month-long campaign is “Resilience: The Ultimate Life Hack.”  Do you recognize the logo? It’s a reboot of our original logo, “Stand Up Against Stigma, No Health Without Mental Health,” that has been the symbol of our community’s call to action to improve our mental health system of care and grow a community that is mentally well and stigma free.

For seven years now, we have been working to break down stigma and champion the message that no one battling mental health challenges should suffer in silence. That we all deserve access to quality mental health care, as well as a caring community to support us when we are struggling. Just like with any other physical illness.

For Mental Health Month 2019, we are broadening our message to “upstream prevention” with a focus on resilience – our ability to bounce back from, and navigate through, adversity. We’ve learned a lot about resilience over the past two years through our grant-funded “Healthy Teen Minds” initiative.

In essence, Healthy Teen Minds has become a social movement in our community to build resiliency and teach help-seeking behavior in our youth. Eighteen of our local middle and high schools have so far adopted a program called “Sources of Strength,” an evidence-based suicide prevention program. But more than that, it’s a radically strength-based program that teaches teens to tap into and grow their own personal strengths, because resiliency, like a muscle, can grow stronger.

Built on the science of social networking theory, Sources of Strength emphasizes the importance of social connections and positive social norms. When we have strong social connections we fare much better mentally and physically.  Social isolation, meanwhile, is dangerous to our physical and mental health, literally.

The work we are doing in schools to grow resilient teens and positive school culture also applies to grownups and our workplaces. When we have strong social connections in environments that truly support physical AND mental health, we can better navigate life’s challenges, reduce stress, and prevent mental health challenges from becoming crises.

Be part of the movement. Come and learn what it means to be part of – and how to help grow –  a connected, caring community. We have a great lineup of speakers, including a couple of innovative business leaders, and one of our “Sources of Strength”  trainers, who will share how they are working to cultivate mental wellness in the workplace, in our schools, and beyond.