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Well Wisconsin Radio

Well Wisconsin Radio

Hosted by the WebMD Team

A podcast discussing topics of health and well-being from experts around the State of Wisconsin. Tune into Well Wisconsin Radio whenever you want and wherever you are! Subscribe to Well Wisconsin Radio in the podcast platform of your choice to be notified when each new episode is released.

Note to those eligible for the 2024 Well Wisconsin Incentive: only episodes of Well Wisconsin Radio from season 3, dated November 2023 and later will qualify for well-being activity credit.

Transcript

Make It OK to Talk About Mental Health and Mental Illness with Stephanie Kovarik and Sallie Scovill  

The information in this podcast does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should not be used as a substitute for healthcare from a licensed healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare provider for individualized treatment or before beginning any new program.  

Host: Hello and welcome to Well Wisconsin Radio, a podcast discussing health and wellbeing topics with experts from all around the state of Wisconsin. I’m your host, Julie Cruz, and today my guests are Stephanie Kovarik and Sallie Scovill.  Stephanie is a Program Lead of Community Health and Partnerships with Health Partners.  Health Partners and Regions Hospital partnered together with the National Alliance on Mental Illness – Minnesota Chapter, to launch the Make it OK to Talk About Mental Health and Mental Illness campaign in 2012. Stephanie has helped to lead and manage Make it OK for many years, and trains people to become Make it OK Ambassadors.  

Sallie is a Professor of Health Sciences and Wellness at UW Stevens Point. She was trained as a Make it OK Ambassador two years ago and has since become an advocate for the program at UW Stevens Point and throughout the community, as well as a member of the Make it OK Steering Committee.  Thank you both for joining me today to talk about the Make it OK campaign.   

Guest 1: Thank you so much, Julie, for having us.  

Guest 2: Thank you. I appreciate being able to sit in on this interview.  

Host: Yeah. Thanks. You’re welcome. And, Stephanie, can you start our conversation off by telling us about the Make It OK to talk about mental health and mental illness community campaign? What is Make It OK and how did it get started?   

Guest 1: Absolutely. So, at the heart of it, Make It OK is really a campaign to help reduce the stigma of mental health and illness by increasing understanding and really just making it easy and common to talk about it. We often say that Make it OK is really the door opener to the conversation and a bridge to resources. 

Um, and as you mentioned, it’s not a new campaign. We have been around for about 12 years. Um, and it all started when Health Partners and Regions Hospital, one of our largest behavioral health facilities here in the Twin Cities, partnered with the Minnesota chapter of NAMI to address what we were hearing from patients and the community, which was that mental health stigma was a real problem. 

And from there, Make It OK brought together many mental health professionals, community members, organizations, and other partners to help really bring Make It OK to life. Um, and since then, the Make It OK footprint has grown well beyond Minnesota and Wisconsin with people across the country and even globally tuning in to presentations and becoming ambassadors and launching their own Make It OK campaigns.  

And really just sharing the message that it’s okay to have a mental illness, it’s okay to love someone with a mental illness, and it’s okay to talk about it and ask for help. So really, the main goal and idea behind Make It OK is to help educate people, challenge stereotypes, and create a culture where mental health is recognized and treated just as seriously as other health conditions.  

It’s about encouraging people to have open conversations and just showing up in a really compassionate and supportive way and making sure everyone just feels understood and accepted.   

Host: Wow. Thanks for sharing all that with us, Stephanie. And what a ripple effect it has had, right?  Like, just moving, um, all over.  What are the key messages of the Make It OK campaign?   

Guest 1: Yeah, great question. So, Make It OK, as I mentioned, it’s all about really challenging the stigma and the myths that are, um, that surround mental health and illness with the facts. Um, and so, we’re here to just say, hey, it’s okay to struggle with your mental health and it’s okay to ask for help and we want to break down those stereotypes and, um, and those myths. 

So, um, we do that through, um, some key messages that you see woven throughout our, our, um, campaign. And that is that mental illnesses are common. They are one in five. And so, we often say if you know five people, you know someone, whether or not you’re talking about it. Um, Mental illnesses are treatable health conditions, um, just like any other medical health condition like diabetes or heart disease.  

And, stigma impacts people, and it impacts communities, and it disproportionately impacts vulnerable communities and communities of color.  Another important message is that we know by learning the facts about mental health and talking openly about it, it helps to stop the stigma. And stopping stigma helps improve and save lives. What we really wanna do is normalize the conversation and make it as natural to talk about mental health as it is to talk about any other medical condition. Um, and you don’t have to be an expert to talk about it.  

Um, that’s the great thing about Make It OK.  I’m a healthcare professional, but I am not a mental health expert. And you don’t have to be, um, to start caring conversations. All you really need is to be someone who cares a lot and is passionate about stopping the stigma, um, in your community.  Um, and lastly, I would just say it’s all about, you know, showing up, um, in a supportive and understanding way. Um, we want to make sure that everyone knows that they’re not alone and that there are resources and people out there that want to help, um, and get people the care that they need and deserve.  

Guest 2: I think this is what makes Make It OK a really unique program that resonates with people, and it did with me. And I think that’s one of the reasons that Stephanie described, the caring, you don’t have to be the professional, and that it, um, the stigma that people recognize that, and I think that’s why it has spread so much. 

Host: Yeah, both for sharing all of that, such impactful, important messages, right?  Stephanie, can you define for us what you’re talking about when you refer to a mental illness? Give us some examples and share what some of those symptoms are.  

Guest 1: So, when we talk about mental illness, or you might also hear it referred to as mental health conditions.  What we’re talking about are medical conditions that affect a person’s thoughts, feelings, moods, emotions, and behaviors, really making it challenging to cope with daily life. 

Um, they are conditions that are diagnosed by a medical professional, and there are many different types of mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, just to name a few.  And as I mentioned earlier, they are common, and they are treatable.  And they can range from mild to severe, and also have symptoms that vary depending on the type of illness. 

Um, that said, some common symptoms may include things like difficulty concentrating, feelings of persistent sadness or hopelessness, mood swings, withdrawing from friends, family, or activities that you maybe once enjoyed.  Um, and some physical symptoms can also show up like a racing or pounding heart, dizziness, trembling, maybe changes in your sleep or your energy level or appetite.  

And I think what’s really important is that the more everyone knows that we all know about mental health conditions and the fact that our bodies and brains are connected, right? And that symptoms can show up in different ways. The better we can all show up in a more informed, caring, and supportive way for those living with a mental illness or struggling with their mental health and really empower them to seek the care and resources that they need.  

And it can be just as simple as encouraging someone to check in with their doctor about symptoms they’re experiencing, just like we would if someone shared symptoms about any other physical illness or medical concern.   

Host: Thank you for sharing that, Stephanie. What are the myths and facts about mental illness that the Make It OK campaign highlights?  

Guest 1: That’s a great question! Make It OK is all about busting myths with the facts when it comes to mental health and illnesses. Um, I would say one of the biggest myths, myths that we tackle, um, is the belief that mental illnesses are just a sign of weakness or something that you can just snap out of. But of course, none of that is true. 

Um, it has nothing to do with willpower or trying hard enough. Um, and we often hear from our teens and youth that when they open up about their mental health that they are often told that they are just seeking attention or exaggerating. But again, that’s not true. Um, and that’s really what we say is the stigma talking. 

Um, mental illnesses are not character flaws or moral failures or sources of shame or something to be hidden away. Yet, these are the myths and stigmatized beliefs and attitudes in our society that continue to surround mental health conditions. And it keeps people from talking about it and, um, it makes people more reluctant to seek care. And we know there are certain groups like communities of color and men who are much more reluctant to seek care for their mental health because of these types of myths and stigma.   

But here’s the facts. Mental health conditions are just that, they are health conditions, and they are caused by things like genetics, environmental factors, changes in the brain, trauma, or triggering life events.  

And mental illnesses do not discriminate. Um, they can affect any age, any gender, any race, any occupation. Um, and another myth that we often, um, hear and that we want to make sure that we are busting is that people feel that you can’t recover from a mental illness. And that too is false. With the right support, treatment, and self-care, people can and do recover and live very fulfilling, healthy lives.  

So, Make It OK is really about spreading the facts and shutting down these harmful myths that feed into the stigma and that just make it harder for people to seek help and get the support that they need.  

Host: Great, thank you. And, you’ve mentioned stigma a couple of times, Stephanie. Can you talk more about it, why the campaign focuses on it, and why it matters when it comes to mental health and mental illness?  

Guest 1: Yes, let’s dive into stigma for sure. Um, so I often encourage or ask people to think about or imagine stigmas as this big dark cloud hanging over mental health and things like negative perceptions, stereotypes, labeling, and all those myths that we just talked about, like weakness or lack of willpower are the things that make up that dark cloud, and they become this invisible barrier that makes people feel ashamed or blamed or embarrassed about their mental health struggles. 

Um, and stigma can take on many different forms from the everyday language or words that we hear or use to images that we see in ads or in the media and to stigmatize beliefs held by society. So, why does it matter? Well, Make It OK really zooms in on stigma because it’s one of the biggest barriers and roadblocks keeping people from getting the care and support that they need and deserve. 

And when society stigmatizes mental health and illnesses, it makes people much less likely to talk about it and what they’re going through. They might worry about being judged or treated differently if they talk about it. So, they often will suffer in silence and often for years. But the thing is, is stigma only makes things worse.  It stops people from seeking the help that they need, um, and it can make them feel very isolated and alone. And that’s why Make It OK is all about shining a spotlight on stopping the stigma. We want to make sure that we are creating communities where people feel comfortable about talking about their mental health. 

And, when we tackle stigma, we’re not just changing attitudes, we’re improving and saving lives. And we’re making it easier for people to reach out for the support and the help that they need, and really to start on that path for healing and recovery.  So, it’s really not just about stopping stigma because it’s the right thing to do. 

We often say it’s about stopping stigma because it’s critical for everyone’s mental health and well-being. When we start talking, that’s when we can start to stop the stigma.   

Guest 2: And I think Make It OK drives this home with one of the exercises they do that you train to deliver during the presentation where we actually compare how we talk about physical health and issues with physical health and the way we talk about issues with mental health. 

And it really brings to light, so for instance, we use this example of cancer, being a cancer survivor myself, this resonates with me.  That we say people are warriors and they’re brave, but we don’t talk about people with mental illness, we call them names, or we say they’re crazy, or they’re OCD, or they’re, and you know, and it’s really brings home that what the language we use is so important, and those are times when you see people’s eyes kind of oh, light up a little bit, like, I get it now. 

We use the poor terminology when talking about mental health, and that’s part of that stigma reduction is, how do we talk about it and improve the type of language? We talk about mental and physical health in the same thing. It shouldn’t be a difference in the two. It should be all just health.  

Host: Yeah. Words are so important, aren’t they? They can be so powerful and impactful.  

Guest 1: Yeah, Sallie, I would so agree with you on that. That is one of the biggest, um, I would say aha moments that, as Sallie said, when we are presenting or when we’re having community conversations, that is, you can kind of see the light in people’s eyes going, oh wow, yeah, that’s, that’s, why are we talking about it so differently when they’re both, um,  you know, health conditions, why do we talk about them so differently? 

So, I would agree with Sallie with that one. And, and we do say we’ll be, we know we’ll be making progress when, um, the same words used to describe someone living with cancer, like warrior, brave, like Sallie was saying, we are using those same words to describe someone living with a mental illness.   

Host: Thank you both. Let’s talk about the intersection of mental health and mental illness. What is important for our listeners to understand about this?   

Guest 1: Yeah, I’m glad we’re delving into this topic, um, because the landscape of mental health and mental illness really has evolved and changed over time, and even how we talk about them.  Um, the words themselves can be confusing out in the community, um, so I’ll just walk through a little bit to help break it down a little bit. So, I already mentioned what mental illnesses are, um, and they as we mentioned, they are the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and they can range from mild to severe. 

They are conditions that are diagnosed by a medical professional, like bipolar disorder, depression, and they are treatable. And, while they are common, not everyone has a mental illness, but all people, all of us, every one of us, do have a state of mental health. We all have mental health. And it varies day to day depending on different life situations or stages and phases of life. 

And so, I often encourage people to think about this continuum. And on one end, there’s good mental health. And that’s where you feel supported. You’re satisfied, maybe, with life. And you have a sense of belonging. You feel empowered. Um, and then on the other end of the continuum, there’s poor mental health. 

And that’s where maybe you feel a lack of, um, purpose or, or a lack of belonging, maybe you feel more isolated, uh, or struggling with significant stressors like financial or relationship concerns, poor housing or unemployment or loss or grief. And what’s important for listeners, I think, to understand is at that intersection, but there’s an intersection between the two. 

Um. And that is that just because you may not have a mental illness, that doesn’t ensure that you’ll have good mental health. You know, some days you might feel great, you might feel like you’re on top of the world, and other days you might be really struggling, um, whether or not you have a mental illness. 

And that’s our mental health. It fluctuates. Um, on the other hand, having a mental illness doesn’t equal poor mental health. And a lot of times that’s where stigma can show up. It’s, um, people have this assumption that if people have a mental illness, then their overall mental health is also poor. And that is just not true. 

The fact is many people have both. They have good mental health and a mental illness, and they are, um, living very fulfilling lives. Um, yet there is stigma wrapped up in, in both mental health and mental illness. And so, by broadening the language and helping people to understand what mental illness is, what mental health is, um, we can have a more inclusive conversation while working to end stigma for both of them. So, I think the bottom line is that mental health and mental illnesses are really part of the same conversation. And it’s really essential to address both while supporting ourselves and each other along the way.  

Host: Thank you, Stephanie. I appreciate that discussion around the relationship between the two and the differences between the two and what that means. Appreciate that explanation. Thank you.  What kind of treatment, resources, and support are available to an individual who is experiencing a mental illness? And how can our listeners support a friend, a family member, or coworker that is experiencing a mental illness?  

Guest 1: Great question, Julie. Um, I would say the place that I often like to start when we talk about treatment and resources is just to make sure everyone is aware of and highlight 988. This is a three-digit number that will immediately connect you with a trained crisis counselor for emotional support for whatever you’re dealing with.  You can call, text, or chat online. Um, and it can be for yourself, or if you’re worried about a loved one or a friend. Um, it’s free, it’s confidential, and it’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Um, and you don’t have to be in immediate danger or, or crisis, um, to reach out. You can reach out if you are just having a tough day or if you have concerns about money or relationships.  If you’re having thoughts of suicide, or if you just need someone to talk to.  

Um, when it comes to different kinds of treatment and support, there are many different options out there. And it will look different for everyone. It really depends on the person, the condition, their specific needs. Um, therapy can be a big one, and that can work wonders for a lot of people. 

Um, and that too, there’s a lot of different types. From talking with a mental health professional to music, pet, or art therapy, to different cultural and community practices that are maybe centered around stories, food, art, dance that can help in providing real healing and recovery. And for some people and conditions, medications are important and may be required as best practice for quality of life, um, just like other health conditions that may require a medication.  

We also know that figuring out where to start and what’s available can be really hard sometimes. And so, some first steps could include, you know, connecting with your primary care doctor. They’re equipped to listen and to help connect you with additional care and resources. You could call your health insurance plan.  Often the number is on the back of the card. Um, they can help to guide you to services within your plan. If you, um, if your workplace, if you have a workplace that has an EAP, or Employee Assistance Program, I’d encourage you to give them a call and explore, um, options. Often, it’s confident, or it’s always confidential, but there’s often free resources for employees. 

Um, also connecting with a trusted community or faith leader can be a good first step.  Um, the other thing I’d like to mention in, in this, um, space here is really, um, the importance of taking care of yourself and practicing daily self-care that can have a really powerful impact on our overall mental health.  When we take time to nurture our bodies through things like getting outside or going for a walk, just moving your body in any way that feels good to you, prioritizing sleep, um, staying connected with others. Um, all of these things can have, again, a really powerful impact on the mind and our overall mental health. 

Um, Make It OK has this little pocket guide that we call Tools to Thrive and it’s filled with some quick in the moment self-care activities to help just boost your mood, help you feel good. Um, and then, so I’d encourage you to check that out. You can find that on our makeitokay.org website.  

Um, but overall, I would say when it comes to treatment, the most important thing and the most important message I could give is that the sooner people get treatment and support that they need, the greater their chances of healing and recovery, which is why removing the barrier of stigma is so critical.  

Um, I know you also asked about what are things that you can do to help to support a friend or a family member, or a coworker. And I would say to that it’s, it’s really all about showing up and being there for them. One of the most important things you can do is really, um, is being there when someone opens up to you and just saying something, not leaving it in silence. Um, it can be as simple as maybe saying thank you for sharing that.  Um, do you want to talk about it?  Um, and sometimes just listening to understand without judgment or trying to solve or fix anything can be, um, the most powerful thing you can do. Letting the person know that you’re there for them no matter what can make really all the difference. Um, and again, not forgetting to take care of yourself to supporting someone with a mental illness can be tough. 

So, making sure that you’re taking time for you and getting the support and self-care that you need as well. I think ultimately, it’s about showing up, being present, and letting them know that you’re not alone. Um, that kind of support can be a real lifeline for someone going through a tough time.   

Guest 2: And I know this is one of the things that we’ll talk about when we talk about why we’re doing this at UW Stevens Point, but we had a comment from an employee in one of our surveys that said, we’re always talking about taking care of students, but we often don’t think about taking care of our self.  And this person likened it to when you fly on an airplane, putting the mask on yourself before you help others. So, I think that’s the message Make It OK also gives us that we have to take care of ourselves to also help take care of others.   

Guest 1: Absolutely.  

Host: Yeah. Thanks for sharing that, Sallie. And thank you, Stephanie, for that great overview of all of the different types of resources that are available to people.  I really appreciate that.  Sallie, you, um, mentioned UW-Stevens Point, so we’re going to kind of switch gears a little bit and, um, talk a little bit more about that. You were trained two years ago to become a Make It OK ambassador. What inspired you to become an ambassador and share this program at UW-Stevens Point and throughout the community?  

Guest 2: Well, our students and I have a practicum where we provide programs to employees on this campus. And for Mental Health Month two years ago, we wanted to do something, and we discovered the Make It OK program that was offered by CAP Services. And, they also have somebody on campus. So, we offered this seminar for employees to come to. 

We had about 15 people show up. But when I sat through it, I realized so much about the Stephanie’s already talked about the stigma, the language that we use. How do you actually approach people when they’re having mental health challenges? And it really struck me that I needed to know more about this subject.  I’ve been in wellness for 33 years, and we talk about all the dimensions of wellness, emotional being one of them, but we don’t do very much in that realm on this campus or even in the work site sometimes.  Mental health has become so important in our students, but also in our employees that are expressing feelings of burnout, not knowing how to deal with the challenges they see from fellow employees or from our students. 

So, that’s what really made me think about I need to learn more about this. So, I went on the website found how easy it was to be trained as an ambassador and started offering the program here at UW-Stevens Point, and then I started having community organizations and other work sites contact me about doing the presentation.  

And, I actually decided to, we needed to expand this, so now all my students that go through the Employee Wellness Practicum, where they actually deliver programs on our campus to employees, are required to, one, do the basic Make It OK, but then by the end of the semester, they have to become ambassadors. And, then I try to involve them in giving the presentation, because it’s so important for their professional development when they go out in the community to be able to spread the message. 

And, um, just in talking to the group, I just became more involved and have really thought about looking at our data from our students from our employees that it’s something that’s so needed here on our campus.   

Host: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Thank you for sharing that. 

Guest 1: Yeah, I was also going to just mention we couldn’t appreciate Sallie more.  Um, she has just been a real force. Um, um for Make It OK out in her community. Um, and with students, you know, we know that, um, teens and young adults and being on campus, um, you know, mental health is a real crisis for our youth. Um, and young adults as well. And so, um, she is just doing fabulous work and, um, and it was great to be on their campus and talking with their students and talking with their staff and, and just hearing from them, um, how much, um, they appreciated having the information as well to just make sure that they can carry that message forth and, and help other students help other, um, staff and, and the community at large.   

Host: Yeah. Thanks, Stephanie. Um, Sallie, tell us a little bit more about what has the implementation of the Make It OK campaign looked like at UW-Stevens Point and, um, just more about how you’ve involved both staff and students in the campaign on campus? 

Guest 2: Yeah, it’s really spread since that first aha moment, I have to say, I had in the Make It OK training that someone else came and led and I attended as a participant. And so, we started leading trainings in the fall of 2022. So, spring is when I went to the training, became an ambassador over the summer and it started leading the training that fall.  And we have done, uh, I believe now four different Make It OK trainings, around 75 people have been trained on this campus for employees, but then we also brought Stephanie on to lead an ambassador training specifically with our campus in mind, and we’ve trained a large number of ambassadors here. 

And I didn’t have a lot to do with some of this because CAP services, again, was already trained. They have a person here on this campus, and she has continued to lead the way also. So, it’s been a great collaboration where she works a lot more with the students. And now we have a group of student mental health peer educators that she’s trained in Make It OK.  And they’ve been leading it out in the residence hall. They’ve been talking to athletics about how they can lead it. And then again, we’ve continued to lead it for our faculty and our staff here. But it’s also branched out into a bigger need because one of the things that was identified is that employees said, we don’t really know how to deal with others and how to approach them, we don’t have the tools.   

And so, because of Make It OK, they also offer QPR training, which is a suicide prevention training, links on their websites to go through that.  And then, I went and did mental health first aid as an instructor, and we’ve been leading mental health first aid on this campus, and we’ve done four trainings.  And, I’ve had about 20 people for each one of, one of those, so we’ve got about 80 people trained now on mental health first aid also, and so, it’s really branched out into a lot of other places, and it led to developing a proposal to our campus leadership about mental health. And it wasn’t solicited.  I decided I just needed to send it up there anyway, and they asked me to come present and said, we like your ideas.” And it was a little challenging when nobody wants to hear about it, but you send it up anyway, and now, I’m on a strategic planning committee to look at how we address wellness overall on this campus. 

And I think that’s been one of the biggest steps is sometimes having the courage just to take a step out and saying this is needed and then having people also realize that yes, it is very important. So, we’ve actually started implementing some of that plan and mental health has been actually really well accepted. 

We had, uh, so as part of that, we did a move for mental health walk just last week and through Well Wisconsin we get some grant funds. Thank you, Well Wisconsin. But we had 156 people sign up among our three campuses, not just here on the main campus, but our two branch campuses. And, they sent us pictures of people walking, we bought shirts and we brought in Well Wisconsin. We brought in our EAP, as Stephanie mentioned, um, to give people more resources. We brought in our local NAMI chapter and we took the little, I took some ideas from Make It OK when they’ve done walks to do picture photos. And if anybody ever wanted to get on our UW-Stevens Point employee wellness web Facebook page, you’ll see hundreds of pictures. I don’t know how many we’ve got up there now, but it was so much fun, and the energy was just amazing. So, every senior leadership showed with their staff. Every one of them.  And they wore the T shirt. So, I mean, it’s gone from unsolicited proposal, you know, for Make It OK training to unsolicited proposal to every leaders now showing up with 156 other people to walk on our mental health walk. 

So, it’s really starting to grow and get some momentum here and that that many people are willing to show up, it shows that we’re really working on reducing that stigma and raising awareness.   

Host: Wow, that is fantastic, Sallie. Thank you so much. And thanks for all the work that you are doing and your students and your staff. That’s just amazing. And I think, you know, you’ve kind of, as you tell these stories, you’ve talked a little bit about the impact of the Make It Okay campaign at UW-Stevens Point. But, what else can you tell us about what kind of impact this has had there?  

Guest 2: When working with students, I’m finding that students now are a lot more willing to talk about it. But, I think it’s giving people, um, especially for employees who really didn’t know how to approach it, the pieces I hear from Make It OK, and then also when we go into the more in depth, the mental health first aid is the questions on, now I know how to approach somebody, now I know what to say, and not to be so afraid to approach people, um, and students or others who are having, you know, a challenge with their mental health or maybe showing signs and symptoms.  They now know what signs and symptoms are. Stephanie made a really good point that we’re not here to diagnose. I’m not a mental health professional. I’m a wellness professional for a long time, but I’ve really gotten very passionate about this. So, I think that’s one of the biggest impacts is that the passion is making it spread. And other people are becoming passionate about it. I have a colleague now that wants to go through mental health first aid training. 

She’s been through Make It OK. She’s an ambassador now. Now she wants to get more training and start offering this to her students. And I think that’s really important is that it’s a very grassroots, spread in a lot of ways and leadership is now seeing that and they’re saying, yes, we need to support this too.  And, you know, I actually got some funding for shirts to lead the mental health walk. Is it gonna make a big behavior change? No. But the bigger thing right now is that awareness and stigma reduction, and it’s really starting to change a lot on campus and there are a lot more resources, I think, that we’ve made available and shown people that they have other resources through Well Wisconsin, EAP, the students with their, uh, peer health educators and the UW Systems also put some more in place that we’re able to talk about. 

So, showing people that there are resources out there has been so important that others may not, didn’t even know about, which is always surprising.  

Host: Great. Thank you for sharing all of that, Sallie. I appreciate it.  So, as we kind of wrap up this conversation today, I do have a really important question to end with too, is, if our listeners want to get involved in the Make It OK campaign, what options are available to them and what can they do to get started?  

Guest 1: Yeah, thanks so much. There’s so many different ways that you can get involved. No matter, you know, just to learn more for yourself or to launch a campaign and do all the amazing things that Sallie is doing at UW-Stevens Point, um, and for her community, um, and, or anywhere in between. And so, I think first off, what I would encourage everyone to do just is to learn more, um, and you can do that through, um, heading over to our website at makeitok.org. Um, it is, our website has recently been revamped, refreshed, and we are really proud and excited, um, to, to share that, um, with everyone. And we hope it is become a space where people come, come to it that they feel welcomed and they feel seen, heard, valued, and included. Um, there’s lots of different resources and tools available. 

One thing I was thinking about when Sallie was, was talking was, um, having a resource of, you know, people saying they just don’t know what to say. Um, there’s a, uh, a tab on our, on our site called, um, help end stigma and it really is, um, helping to know what to say. It’s tips for talking, tips for supporting people, um, and I would encourage people to go there. 

Um, there’s also a new section that we added, and it’s called in the community and it looks at different perspectives from the lens of different communities around stigma.  And it looked, because stigma looks different for, for different communities and different people. Um, and so we have, um, perspectives around, um, communities of color, um, the LGBTQ plus community, veterans, teens, and young adults. 

So. To Sallie’s point, um, you know, the, the kid, the students on campus, um, we hear a lot from teens, um, that they don’t feel like they have a safe, trusted adult to go to, um, to open up about their mental health. And we know that adults are the gateway to, to helping, um, get kids and teens the, the help that they need.  And so, um, on that page, it talks to adults, and it talks to teens, but it gives resources for adults on how they can become those safe, trusted adults. Um, so that’s just a few examples of different resources and information you’ll find there.   

Um, another way to get involved is to simply sign our pledge that says, hey, we’re willing to, I’m willing to learn more, to talk about it and to share the message of Make It OK. 

And you can find that online again on our website. Um, but another place that I, as Sallie mentioned too, is, is getting trained as an ambassador. We do have monthly train, um, presentations that are general presentations on Make It OK. Um, and ones also that are focused on, um, reducing the stigma of substance use disorder that are led by, um, facilitators that help to, um, manage our Programs for Change program, which is on, um, substance use and recovery.  So, I would encourage people to check that out   

As Sallie mentioned, becoming an ambassador, it’s a two-hour free training. It’s offered every month. Um, and you can find all of our trainings and presentations at makeitokay.org and just clicking on events. Um, you can also follow us on Facebook. Um, you can launch a campaign if you’re, if you want to dive deep, like, like Sallie has.  Um, and as Sallie also mentioned with May being mental health month now, it’s just a, a really great time to get involved and to get started with helping to Make It OK.   

Guest 2: And the only thing I would say is once you’ve taken just the basic training, it was a participant.  And if you’re not familiar, I think it’s like it was for me, really eye opening that I didn’t know a lot of this, and I’m supposed to be the expert in wellness in general, not in mental health.  And it will lead you to dive into it a little bit more, and I think because this is available to this podcast for members who are taking part of the Well Wisconsin program, that’s the nice thing. Even Well Wisconsin now offers the Make It OK training. They have an ambassador and its part of one of the things you can do for your well-being, uh, for your one well-being activity you need. 

So, I think it’s really spreading in a lot of ways, but the resources that’s website that was revamped and Stephanie was just mentioning something that just kind of stuck in my head that I need to get some of that and post it on our Facebook page. There’s things that with the new, with the new website that I need to go back out and share because it really is so much more information.  And the videos that are out there that you can show when you’re trying to get people to buy in and say, oh yeah, this is like me too, I think is so important also. 

Host: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you both so much for having this important conversation today, um, especially during Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s great timing and just glad that we can share more about the Make It OK campaign as well as the amazing work that Sallie is doing at UW Stevens Point to share the campaign as well.  Thank you both for your time today. I really appreciate it.  

Guest 1: Thank you so much, Julie, for having us.  

Guest 2: I really enjoyed having this conversation about an area that I’ve now become a passionate advocate for that two years ago, um, just started in that short period of time. And I really hope that this spreads that message throughout our Well Wisconsin employee group that takes advantage of these.  

Host: Looking for mental health support? Get support with mental health coaching from specialists who have certifications to support the management of depression, anxiety, grief, PTSD, dealing with crises, and much more. Hear what a fellow Well, Wisconsin coaching participant has to say about their experience.   

Coaching Participant: My sessions with my coach have been absolutely instrumental in supporting um, my, my particular situation, what was wonderful for me is the, my coach listened to me and actually gave me some terrific suggestions that I couldn’t even, I didn’t even think that I would have thought of, and I have gone through so many different coaches and sessions, but this was like, so instrumental. 

Um, I will definitely continue to follow up with my coach, and I feel just so much more supported than I have by other, others that have done coaching or therapy with me. So, I would highly recommend this. And the more you share, the more you get back.  And that’s what the things that I would like to share with everyone else. 

Host: Learn more about mental health coaching options today by calling 1 800 821 6591.   

Connect with others like you. Togetherall is an online community available 24/7 to all looking for mental health support.  Join anonymous discussions with others like you who may be experiencing similar challenges. such as anxiety, grief, and more.  Mental health professionals are there to guide your experience, ensuring a safe space and access to clinicians when needed.  Get started today by logging into the Well Wisconsin portal at webmdhealth.com/wellwisconsin and click on the Togetherall card.   

Thanks for listening today. I hope you enjoyed the show. You can find our survey in the Well Wisconsin portal and our transcripts and previous episodes at webmdhealthservices.com/wellwisconsinradio. If you’re listening to this podcast on your platform of choice, please be sure to subscribe so you’ll never miss an episode.

Show Notes

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans lives with a mental illness. Join us as we learn more about the Make It OK community campaign to understand and create caring conversations about mental illness. Our guests are Stephanie Kovarik with HealthPartners and Sallie Scovill of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Stephanie has been involved with the program since it launched in 2012 and shares some of the campaign’s background and key messages. Sallie was trained two years ago as a Make It OK Ambassador and tells us about how she has implemented the campaign at UW-Stevens Point and the impact it is having throughout the community.

Learn more about Make it OK at makeitok.org. Watch a Well Wisconsin Make it OK training.

Contact the three-digit number mentioned in this podcast by calling 988 or exploring the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline website.

The information in this podcast does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used as a substitute for health care from a licensed healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare provider for individualized treatment or before beginning any new program.  

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