In recognition of May Mental Health Awareness Month, The Northeast Wisconsin Mental Health Connection (The Connection) will share a new report on recommendations to improve the mental health of adults in the Fox Valley. This special event is planned for 7:30 – 8:30 a.m., Thursday, May 11 at Catalpa Health, 4635 W. College Ave., in Appleton. The event will also be aired via Zoom:

Raising the minimum wage; increasing walk-in services for mental health care; speeding up the state licensure approval process for new therapists; and adopting social connectedness strategies are among the more than 40 recommendations outlined in the report, titled Mental Health & Suicide Prevention Recommendations.

The recommendations are based on findings from the 2021 Mind Your Wellness Survey (MYWS), a local survey conducted by The Connection that was designed to collect population-level data on several mental health and suicide-related indicators. A total of 1,259 adults from Calumet, Outagamie and Winnebago counties took the survey during the pandemic.

The impetus for the survey was the alarming – and growing – suicide rate in the Fox Valley, which increased by 66 percent between 2010 and 2018. The pandemic only exacerbated mental health challenges for the overall population.

“We believe this report can serve as a road map for many organizations to support and inform new projects, strategic plans, and priorities aimed at impacting adult mental health and suicide-related behaviors,” said Sarah Bassing-Sutton, The Connection’s Community Suicide Prevention Coordinator, who authored the report.

The survey results identified many risk factors that contribute to poor mental health in adults, including having an annual household income of less than $50,000, feeling isolated, spending several hours of non-work time per day on screens, and inadequate sleep. The resulting recommendations are organized into three themes: basic needs, access to care, and social connection.

“Four factors repeatedly rose to the top as having significant impact on adult mental health and suicide risk, including income, isolation, rest and screen time,” said Beth Clay, Executive Director of The Connection. “The recommendations in the report place the obligation on the system to change, not the individual. Our hope is that our community will use the data and recommendations to improve upon our collective efforts to build communities where people can flourish.”

The report also highlights the disparities of two populations that are placed at higher risk for mental health challenges: Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ). Recommendations to address systemic inequities include calling on public and private healthcare systems to prioritize trauma-informed care practices as well as movement toward culturally-informed care.