During Mental Health Awareness Month, I have been reflecting more on this topic from both a personal perspective and on the importance for us as a community to keep this issue top of mind.
For me, making time to care for my mental health means getting out on the bike trails and finding time to exercise. When I started the Mayor’s Fitness Challenge in April 2020 at the onset of the pandemic, it was a way to encourage our community to move and get outside—and to strengthen their mental and physical health during an especially challenging time as both a city and a nation. We’re still going strong with this challenge in its third year, and residents continue to share how prioritizing exercise brings benefits both to their physical and mental health.
Mental health conditions are still very real in our community, and we need to continue to keep this topic at the forefront of our conversations. Based on data from the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 31,500 individuals in Sioux Falls will experience mental health issues in a given year and about 8,400 will experience severe mental illness. This is an issue that impacts our whole community.
To help elevate this topic, I have issued a proclamation for May as Mental Health Awareness Month in Sioux Falls. I encourage you to promote mental wellness and well-being and to do your part to support prevention and treatment efforts from organizations in our community like the Helpline Center, which offers community resources and crisis support by calling 211.
Here are some other opportunities to promote mental health and well-being: Check in with a friend or family member you haven’t seen in a while. Seek out therapy or medical support if you need it. Offer support to loved ones who may be dealing with mental health or substance use issues and encourage them to seek help.
We have community resources like The Link—Sioux Falls’ community triage center—to help people recover from mental health and substance abuse challenges. As we approach the one-year mark of The Link’s opening, we have completed more than 3,700 triage visits, and within that number, we have served 1,353 individuals. We know there are even more people in our community who could use The Link’s services. Learn more at linksf.org.
We need to continue the drumbeat and encourage people to seek out support so we can lessen the stigma of mental illness. One way we’ll be doing that is at the third annual Mission: Possible Conference on June 1–2. This event is focused on reducing the impact of substance abuse and mental illness in our community.
One area in particular that needs more attention is the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on our young people. Four students from the 2021–22 Mayor’s Youth Council will be discussing this topic and opportunities for progress at Mission: Possible. Learn more about this event—which is available to join in person or online—here. I hope to see you there.
Let’s prioritize caring for our mental health and offering support to friends and family members who may need it, both in May and throughout the year.