Mission Message

Shining a Light on Mental Health

Jane Brekken practicing yoga at the YMCA, Brainerd, MN
When Jane Brekken decided to become a Make It OK ambassador to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, she did it without hesitation. Brekken is one of 180 ambassadors in the Brainerd Lakes area who goes out into the community to educate others about mental health. “It doesn’t matter if there’s one or 25 people in the audience,” Jane says. “Someone’s going to hear this message and be able to change their attitude around mental illness."

Reducing the Stigma

Stigma is a huge hurdle for many who face mental illness. On average, people wait 10 years to get help, often because of the stigma surrounding it, according to HealthPartners, the founders of the Make It OK campaign.

Make it OK is a grassroots effort that encourages people to talk about mental health. It’s also a program Crow Wing Energized, a community movement led by Essentia Health and Crow Wing County, Minnesota, has heavily promoted in response to a cry for help close to home.

In Crow Wing County, one in four adults experiences mental illness. The national average is one in five. “It’s here. It’s pervasive. We’re all affected by it,” says Kathy Sell, marketing manager for Essentia Health and Crow Wing Energized.

Jane Brekken presenting at Brainerd High School

Make It OK Ambassador Jane Brekken presents to the general public at Brainerd High School.

That’s why 180 community members have been trained to be Make It OK ambassadors in the Brainerd Lakes area. Training is hosted by Crow Wing Energized and is funded through Crow Wing County and Essentia Health.
Jane Brekken, a life coach and former addiction counselor, jumped at the chance to volunteer as an ambassador. Her goal, along with the goal of the other ambassadors, is simple — bring the Make It OK presentation to local groups in hopes of reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness. In return, they hope more people seek help in the early stages of mental illness.

By signing up, each ambassador commits to doing two presentations in the community within one year of their training. “It’s about prevention, and prevention is really key here,” says Jane. “Stigma is a huge hurdle for both the person afflicted with the disease and loved ones. Getting over that negative connotation of someone who has mental illness or addiction is foundational. It’s so important to change your attitude and your perceptions about these problems because then you can start talking about it, learn and grow.”

Our colleagues and community partners in Brainerd represent one of many groups across Essentia’s four-state service area focusing on this prevalent community health need. We are called to make a healthy difference in people’s lives; it’s our mission. Life can get better for those affected by mental illness, and Essentia is proud to play a small part in an enormous undertaking that promotes hope and healing.

"We will know that we are making progress when people lean in to help, just as we try to do with other diseases, such as cancer or diabetes, rather than leaning away as we sometimes do with mental illness."

— Essentia Health CEO David C. Herman, MD

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Let's Start Talking

Learn why Jane Brekken, a wife, mom, life coach and former addiction counselor, decided to help promote a grassroots movement helping people talk about mental health.

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Mental Health Resources

You don't have to wait to ask for help. Learn more about mental and behavioral health services at Essentia Health, or talk with your Primary Care provider about options in your community.

Crisis Services

If you or a loved one feel unsafe, get help as soon as possible. Call 911 for immediate care, or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.