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Groups take on heat, mental health at Mental Health Awareness Day
_holly bowyer and zeroreasonswhy
Holly Bowyer with the Center for Counseling and Consultation shares a smile with a representative from the #ZeroReasonsWhy suicide prevention campaign. - photo by Daniel Kiewel

Several organizations and community members beat the summer heat to beat the stigmas surrounding mental health Tuesday afternoon at Jack Kilby Square in Great Bend.

Julie Kramp, executive director of the Center for Counseling and Consultation, the organization who puts on the annual Mental Health Awareness Day event, said such events are crucial.

“I think it shows the community how important mental health is and how many aspects of life that it touches. It’s everyday, it’s every person and it’s all day long,” Kramp said. 

She said organizers wanted to show the community that resources are readily available and easily accessible for those seeking help for mental health.

In spite of temperatures approaching triple digits, an array of organizations were out offering activities and services to demonstrate not only awareness of mental health issues, but to offer access to the many different solutions and coping resources available to people experiencing mental health challenges.

For example, Cottonwood Extension Agent Donna Krug was on hand with the Extension’s “blender bike” to help stress the vital role that proper nutrition and physical activity play in addressing mental health. The stationary bike uses pedal power to operate a blender, which Krug and her husband John used to make smoothies for those attending the event.

Other groups on hand, such as Rhythm Makings and Mindful Movement, a yoga therapy group, showed people how other forms of activity can be positive outlets for self-care.

Kramp said with mental health issues becoming more prevalent it is vital to remove the stigmas that have often surrounded seeking help for those issues. “It’s really important for people to know that these services are here, not just with the Center, but through (all organizations here).”

Among the other organizations in attendance were Heart of Kansas Family Health Care, Mirror Inc., Aetna, United Healthcare, Sunflower Health Plan, Youth Crew, #ZeroReasonsWhy and Suicide Prevention Task Forces, and Mental Health First Aid. 

Youth Crew, a youth-led substance abuse prevention task force, had several games available to young attendees, in addition to information about what the organization does, and its role in the mental health of youth.

“I think a lot of this is really being part of the community,” said Tyler Morton, director of the Youth Crew task force. 

Being a youth-led initiative, having the youth be out at an event like Tuesday’s is a good way to build confidence through communication skills. Communication is essential when dealing with mental health, especially with youth. Providing that avenue helps them better address issues at school and at home through communication.

In addition to mental health resources, volunteers were also on hand offering visitors refreshment with hot dogs and chips, water and sno-cones.

Kramp stressed the importance of community involvement in addressing mental health. Seeking help does not always have to be through formal organizations, she noted. It’s just as important to be able to reach out to one’s friends, family and community when you need help. “It’s that connection and collaboration (that is important).”

Kramp said while there are plenty of resources for people dealing with mental health crises, it’s important to seek help when you need it, before it becomes a crisis issue. “The minute you start feeling like you need help, then get help. Don’t wait.”

For crisis issues, though, she stressed reaching out to the 9-8-8 crisis line, the Center’s Great Bend crisis line, 620-792-5944,  or its toll-free crisis line, 800-875-2544, or other health-care professionals.

_playing games with youth crew
Visitors “have a ball” at one of the Youth Crew task force’s game stations at Tuesday’s Mental Health Awareness Day event. - photo by Daniel Kiewel
_kobi the therapy dog
Kobi, a therapy dog in training, tries to stay cool while brightening the days of visitors to the Mental Health Awareness Day event. - photo by Daniel Kiewel
_serving food to visitors
A volunteer helps serve hot dogs and potato chips to visitors at Mental Health Awareness Day Tuesday. - photo by Daniel Kiewel