A group of high school students--spearheaded by Bezos Scholar and Detroit Lakes High School (DLHS) senior Anna Schumacher--is focused on creating a change in the community, and it starts with community youth.
"We saw how hesitant young people are to seek treatment and how it can truly damage a person when they are unable or unwilling to reach out for help because of the stigma," Schumacher said. "We wanted to get more people talking about mental health and to empower our youth to seek help if they need it."
The group, which goes by the name DLthriving, is completely student-driven and will be hosting an educational forum at 6:30 p.m. on April 4, centered on youth mental wellness.
The forum will bring a variety of mental health professionals to the Holmes Theater in Detroit Lakes, including a licensed social worker, psychologists, psychiatrists and a former DLHS graduate who will deliver a personal testimony.
Karin Fritz-Staley, a social worker who works as the Homeless Liaison and Attendance Coordinator for the school district, is the group's advisor. She said that the event will follow an open format.
"We're trying to keep the event so that it's not hours of lecturing," said Fritz-Staley. "It's more of a dialogue amongst our speakers so people can learn and ask questions."
Schumacher explained that, although the group encourages everyone in the community to attend the event, it is geared specifically towards youth, their families and members of the community who work directly with youth.
"One thing that I see working with families--youth and adults--is that it's sometimes hard to get parents on board to seek help because their perception is that it's embarrassing or something to be ashamed of or something they've done something wrong," Fritz-Staley said. "So, we want our event to be open to youth and members of the community so they can come and hear the information and, by hearing the information, hopefully realize how common mental illness is."
Schumacher and junior Sydney Goldstein--a member of the creative team for DLthriving--agreed, saying that stigma surrounding youth mental health is still a huge problem in the community.
"I personally do have anxiety and panic attacks so I think that, from my experience, mental illness needs a lot more attention in this area," Goldstein said. "I think that, especially in this community, you can feel very alone in it, and it'd be nice for everyone to see how common it is and to feel like they have a support system. Stigma stops a lot of people from getting help."
The group's main goals are to establish commonality--to show youth in the community that they are not, in fact, alone--and to get the community talking about mental health.
"Just because you aren't personally experiencing stigma doesn't mean that it doesn't exist," Schumacher explained. "We want parents to be able to support their kids and kids to be able to support their friends or know how to love themselves and treat themselves in a way that will help them live healthy lives. People still believe that mental illness is a bad thing and a failure. But it's a medical condition and not a personal failing. It's not your fault."
DLthriving's mental health forum will be held at the Holmes Theater on April 4 at 6:30 p.m.