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Change Direction of Mental Health

While most of us are comfortable acknowledging and seeking help for a physical condition, such as a heart attack or stroke, many more of us aren't so quick to recognize or seek help for emotional suffering and pain.

Through The Campaign to Change Direction, businesses in the La Crosse community and surrounding areas are bringing attention to the importance of mental health.

Change Direction logo

The hope is to spark a movement that:

  • Frees us to see our mental health as having equal value to our physical health
  • Creates a common language that allows us to recognize the signs of emotional suffering in ourselves and others
  • Encourages us to care for our mental well-being and the mental well-being of others

About the campaign to Change Direction

The Campaign to Change Direction is a coalition of concerned citizens, nonprofit leaders and leaders from the private sector who have come together to "change the story" in America about mental health, mental illness and wellness.

The Campaign to Change Direction expands on the mission of Give an Hour, a national nonprofit organization founded by psychiatrist Barbara Van Dahlen, which offers mental health aid to military veterans. Barbara describes The Campaign to Change Direction as a "prequel" to Give an Hour because it focuses on the root of what keeps civilians, veterans and families from getting the mental health help they need. Among its founding members is Logistics Health, Inc., La Crosse, Wis.

On March 4, 2015, The Campaign to Change Direction launched nationally in Washington D.C. Logistics Health, Inc. founder Don Weber, Gundersen Health System pediatric allergist Todd Mahr, MD and First Lady Michelle Obama were among the leaders who spoke at the national news conference. Following the national launch, The Campaign to Change Direction made its way to La Crosse with the support of more than 40 local organizations. La Crosse is the first city in the nation to embrace this important mental health initiative. The work continues today.

Learn more about The Campaign to Change Direction

What is mental illness?

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, a mental illness is a condition that impacts a person's thinking, feeling or mood, and may affect his or her ability to relate to others and function on a daily basis. Research suggests that genetics, the environment and lifestyle influence whether someone develops a mental health condition. It’s often not the result of one event.

Who is affected?

One in five American adults suffers from a diagnosable mental health disorder. It may be your parent or grandparent. Your sister or brother. Your child. Many more of us experience emotional suffering for which we rarely reach out for support.

Recognize the five signs

The Five Signs of Suffering may mean someone is in emotional pain and might need help:

  1. Personality changes: Their personality changes.
  2. Agitation: They seem uncharacteristically angry, anxious, agitated or moody.
  3. Withdrawal: They withdraw or isolate themselves from other people.
  4. Poor self-care: They stop taking care of themselves and may engage in risky behavior.
  5. Hopelessness: They seem overcome with hopelessness and overwhelmed by their circumstances.

How you can help

Support someone who is struggling. Here's how:

  • Approach the person. If you notice a change in the behavior or mood of someone you care about, the best thing you can do is to go to the person and be present. Show compassion and offer willingness to find a solution.
  • Listen. There are times in everyone's life when they struggle. Listening may seem so basic, but people need space to be heard.
  • View mental health more like physical health. It's easy to judge others for intentionally behaving the way they do because they want attention. Remember, mental illness is a brain disorder and it changes the way people think.
  • Change the language. When you notice someone is struggling, avoid asking, "What's wrong with you?" Instead, make an observation such as, "I've noticed you've been irritable lately. I'm worried about you. Is there something we can talk about?"
  • Schedule an appointment with your primary healthcare provider or pediatrician. Or, reach out to someone you trust such as a family member, friend, teacher, colleague or pastor.
  • Call Great Rivers 2-1-1. When you don't know when or how to ask for help, Great Rivers 2-1-1 can link you to the right community resources. To call this free, 24/7, confidential information and crisis line, simply dial 2-1-1 or (800) 362-8255. Help is waiting.
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