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Doctors' View: 'Make It OK' to talk about mental illness

St. Luke's and Essentia Health came together with other partners in 2016 to create Duluth's first-ever collaborative Community Health Needs Assessment. Conducting the assessment is a federal requirement for nonprofit hospitals every three years. The assessment includes examining health-status indicators and getting community feedback to identify key health issues. Because Essentia Health and St. Luke's serve the same community, it made sense to work together to identify our community health needs and address them.

We learned that mental health is one of our community's top concerns, which was not a surprise. Mental illnesses are common, as common as dark brown eyes or silver cars. However, mental illness is a disease people often suffer with in silence.

We all know and love people who have been affected by mental illness, but seeking help and talking about mental health still can be difficult due to stigma and barriers like poor access. Getting treatment can help relieve suffering and the isolation so common in mental illness.

Essentia Health and St. Luke's are pleased to be part of Northland Healthy Minds, a collaborative of more than 40 businesses, organizations, and people striving to break down the stigma that often surrounds mental health.

We, along with many other companies, are participating in the "Make it OK" campaign this month. Created under the leadership of Health Partners, this campaign encourages open conversations among our employees about mental illness and showcases the resources available (Our View: "Really, it's OK to discuss mental health," Jan. 24).

Additionally, we are partnering with Northland Healthy Minds on several community events, including a community dinner and mental health resource fair featuring comedian John Moe, the host and creator of the podcast "The Hilarious World of Depression." For event dates and details, visit northlandhealthyminds.org.

Our goal is to work together to help our friends, neighbors, loved ones, and colleagues feel understood and supported and to know help is available.

We encourage everyone to take the "Make It OK" pledge: "I pledge to erase stigma around mental illness by telling others how common mental illness is, by watching for mental-illness injustice, by talking openly about mental illness, and by encouraging others to sign the pledge."

Dr. David Baldes of St. Luke's and Dr. Kristi Estabrook of Essentia Health are mental health professionals and part of Northland Healthy Minds. May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

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