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Letter: Thank you Inside Out series - this program is working

I attended the first of the "Inside Out: A step inside mental illness" series at M State in February. I saw the engaged crowd, and I felt the vulnerability in the room.

As a mental health therapist, former school counselor, and now a professor in the counseling field, it has always been a dream of mine that one day mental health could be talked about like the weather, a normal thing.

As I am writing this letter there is a snow storm happening in the middle of April ... It's not the most pleasant thing, but yet we all have no problem talking about it or posting pictures of the snow on our social media sites.

I realized that my dream of normalizing mental health was becoming a reality yesterday as I was sitting at Nicole's Hair Salon on Washington Avenue.

Thanks to the series "Inside Out: A step inside mental illness," a simple conversation was started next to me about this week's video on schizophrenia. A woman in the community was so grateful that the video was shared so others could understand more about mental health issues. Even though this woman was new to me, three of us in the salon engaged in a dialogue about schizophrenia for the next 20 minutes. I still do not know this woman's name. I do know that she shared some of her stories about the impact of mental illness. She shared intimate and painful memories of a loved one that had a mental illness. We weren't talking about the snow storm outside the walls of the hair salon. Rather, we were sharing stories; we were healing.

Thank you to all who are involved in this important project. Thank you for helping to reduce the stigma of mental illness and allowing an avenue for conversations to take place in our homes, our schools, our coffee shops, our break rooms, our schools, and even our hair salons. — Julie Smith, Detroit Lakes