Editor’s Note: There are people hurting in this community right now...fighting a battle only they truly know ‘inside and out.’ Mental health affects our own friends and neighbors, and sadly, they are often stuck dealing with it alone and in the shadows. There needs to be more awareness and understanding of what they’re going through because honestly, there are way more people around us suffering from something than many would suspect. As we begin this series, our hope is that we can help shine a light on the daily struggle that some people in our community are fighting so that not only do we better understand them, but we can be better allies in their fight.


Detroit Lakes area wellness agencies, along with local media outlets, are launching a collaborative new project to explore and destigmatize mental illness.

“Inside Out: A Step Inside Mental Illness,” will put real faces on several common mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and others.

The multifaceted project consists of an 8-part video series, produced in Detroit Lakes by Leighton Broadcasting, plus information about mental illness shared over Leighton’s local radio airwaves, as well as a related series of feature stories in this newspaper. The videos and newspaper articles will profile people from around the region who have a mental illness, to hear in their own words what life is like for them. There will also be information, tips and advice from mental health care professionals.

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The project aims to raise awareness of mental illness and its prevalence, and also to provide a pathway for people who have (or might know someone with) a mental illness to all the local resources available to help them.

The project will kick off with a Video Premiere and Panel event on the evening of Thursday, Feb. 7 at M State. The panel will feature six mental health professionals from around the region, along with two local residents who will talk about their personal experiences with depression and PTSD. There will be time for the audience to ask questions, either in front of the mic or anonymously.

“The panel is an opportunity for people to ask questions and get answers from professionals, maybe for themselves or to support somebody else in their lives,” said Erika Gilsdorf, a producer of the video series and the key individual behind the whole “Inside Out” project. “We wanted a forum where people could ask how they can help somebody.”

The panelists will speak starting at 7:30 p.m., following a showcase reel of highlights from the “Inside Out” video series at 7 p.m. Informational and resource booths from multiple regional mental health agencies will be set up and available to the public starting at 6:15 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend.

The kickoff event is for anyone who’s interested in learning more about mental illness, Gilsdorf said: “It’s for parents of kids they’re concerned about, or people who are worried about themselves; people who have questions about treatment options, success rates, how to talk to somebody and support them if you think they might have PTSD, or addiction, etc. When to intervene, signs to look for, things to say and not to say…”

Gilsdorf, who has had obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, since her youth, said it was her own life experiences that inspired her to create the “Inside Out” video series, which then evolved into the larger collaborative community project. In addition to producing the series, she is also one of the subjects interviewed.

“I know a lot of people who have challenges with anxiety or depression, or PTSD… and I just got really moved to try and broaden awareness of mental illness,” Gilsdorf said.

The videos are about 10 minutes long each, and consist of three segments: a documentary-style interview of a local person with one or more mental illnesses; a simulation of what moments in that person’s life look like; and helpful commentary and information from health care professionals.

Gilsdorf chose a first-person, day-in-the-life style for the “Inside Out” videos because, “I found that people always asked me what it’s like to have OCD, and having a little window into what it’s like for me really enlightened them,” she explained. “So I wanted to show people what it’s like, to give them a little taste of it, to help bring a little awareness and empathy.”

Another important objective of the “Inside Out” project, Gilsdorf said, is to break the stigmas that tend to surround mental illness.

“A lot of people don’t understand mental illness, and so they discredit it,” she said. “That makes a person feel belittled or embarrassed, so they don’t get the help they should. Right now, if you have something like anxiety or depression, there’s still this stigma about weakness, or you’re not going to be good at your job, or you’re unstable. But the more we talk about it, the more we realize that it’s really common. A lot of people have something.”

The project got rolling last spring, when Gilsdorf approached Karen Pifher, of Becker County Energize, with her idea for the video series. Mental wellbeing has been identified as a top concern in the community, Pifher said, and area healthcare organizations showed tremendous support for “Inside Out” right from the start.

“The goal of it is really to get a better understanding of those mental illnesses that people have - how do they function, and how does it make them feel - in order to build empathy,” said Pifher. “We know that the more we talk about it and the more we understand one another, the easier it is for people to open up.”

Becker County Energize has taken the lead on the Video Premiere and Panel event, and will be the central hub for anyone seeking more information. The “Inside Out” videos will be launched and hosted on beckercountyenergize.com, and the website will have links to other helpful resources, as well.


Kickoff: Video Premiere and Panel Event

Where: Detroit Lakes M State, in the main conference/auditorium area

When: Thursday, Feb. 7

  • 6:15 p.m. Resource booths open to the public
  • 7 p.m. Video premiere
  • 7:30-8:15 p.m. Panel and Q&A

Who: Panelists will include Dr. Brian Gatheridge, Phd with Sanford Health; Dr. Jonathan Aligada, PsyD with Sanford Health; Melissa Cook, MSW, LGSW with Lakeland Mental Health Center; Dr. David J. Mach, DO with Lake Region Healthcare; JoAnne Riegert, Mental Health Professional with White Earth Mental Health; Chris Green, MSW, LICSW with Northwestern Mental Health Center; Jessica Ekholm with Stomp That Stigma; and Scott Geiselhart, a public speaker on first responder PTSD.

Video Series

The 8-part “Inside Out: A Step Inside Mental Illness” launches Monday, Feb. 11, with one video released every Monday for eight weeks. The videos are launching on Becker County Energize’s website, beckercountyenergize.com. There will also be a program airing each week on lakestv3.com.

Videos are about 10 minutes long and can be watched free of charge. There will be options to watch the videos in their entirety, or in shorter segments. They may also be downloaded, free of charge and with no use restrictions, by contacting TV3 at 218-846-9669 or emailing Erika Gilsdorf at egilsdorf@leightonbroadcasting.com.

The videos have been produced entirely in Detroit Lakes, by Erika Gilsdorf, Rayna Zima and Logan Johnson of LB Video Productions and Sound, a division of Leighton Broadcasting and TV3.

The series schedule is as follows:

  1. Feb. 11: Depression with Jessica
  2. Feb. 18: PTSD with Scott
  3. Feb. 25: Anxiety with Kristina
  4. March 4: Suicide prevention with Heather
  5. March 11: ADHD with Rachelle and Keagan
  6. March 18: Addiction with Kristina
  7. March 25: Schizophrenia with Kyle
  8. April 1: OCD with Erika
Newspaper Series

The Detroit Lakes Tribune will be publishing a series of related feature stories, which will launch on Wednesday, Feb. 13 and will be published every Wednesday after that. Topics will be the same as for the video series: depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicide, addiction, ADHD, Schizophrenia and OCD. Many of the same people profiled in the videos will also be profiled through this newspaper series. The stories will be available in print and online, at dl-online.com.

Radio Campaign

Leighton Broadcasting will be promoting the “Inside Out” project through its three local radio stations, providing some on-air tips and advice about mental illness. Expect to hear more about it throughout the project’s duration, on WAVE 104.1, KDLM 93.1 and KRCQ 102.3.


Major partners and supporters behind the “Inside Out” project include Becker County Energize, Leighton Broadcasting, the Detroit Lakes Tribune, and a dozen healthcare organizations, including: White Earth Mental Health, Lake Region Healthcare, Sanford, the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Lakeland Mental Health, Essentia, Northwestern Mental Health, Ethan Berry Memorial Fund, Lakes Crisis and Resource Center, Red River Basin Behavioral Health, Wellness in the Woods and Stellher Human Services.


Editor's note: The print version of this story appearing in the Sunday, Feb. 3 Detroit Lakes Tribune listed incorrect launch dates for the videos and newspaper articles. The correct dates appear here.