The current public health crisis with COVID-19 has taken its toll on mental health, too. On top of grappling with social isolation and economic uncertainty, many of us are faced with new and pressing needs in our families, from supporting children’s schooling at home to caring for the health of an elder in the midst of a pandemic -- and many more unpredictable challenges that arise as we adjust to new norms.
In the past, Land O’Lakes, Inc. has sought ways to help our members and their families navigate difficult mental health issues. In the past, this came to life at “Harvesting Hope” events, held in partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). At these events, our co-op members, employees and members of the community came together to learn about the warning signs of a mental health crisis and how to leverage resources, including a three-step process to help prevent suicide.
This spring, in the interest of everyone’s safety, these in-person gatherings could not continue as planned -- but are just as important as ever, if not more so. So we partnered with NAMI to provide a virtual learning opportunity in the form of a web-based Lunch & Learn focused on family members supporting loved ones through mental health recovery.
It would be naïve if we thought family systems weren’t affected by illness. They are. Being a caregiver is stressful, and it’s important to get help for yourself and your loved one,” says Kay King, a community educator from NAMI Minnesota.
She adds, “It’s important for families to learn what they can to support their loved ones on the road to recovery, but it’s also important for families to know they’re not alone. Even if you think you’re the only family around with someone who’s struggling, nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, according to the CDC and the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five adults in America experiences a mental illness in a given year. And, most mental illness begins at an early age: One half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14; three-quarters by age 24. That means that many people who are experiencing an onset of mental illness are still living in the same household as their family, and their family members find themselves needing a swift education on how to help.
Eighty people -- members and employees across Land O’Lakes Inc. -- attended the NAMI-hosted Lunch & Learn to learn about how mental illness affects the family unit, why families should be involved in their loved one’s care and how to access resources around mental health.
King and her colleagues have a special focus on agricultural communities, which are prone to ingredients that exacerbate stress, such as isolation and the ups and downs of the market. She was encouraged by the commitment by Land O’Lakes to partner with NAMI and on this topic in particular in a format that was open to employees and members.
About the virtual format, King says, “Even as COVID-19 takes an arch and changes, I think you’ll see we will offer more online opportunities to learn. It allows us to go to much smaller communities in Minnesota and reach more people.”
For more than ten years, Land O’Lakes has offered a Member Assistance Program to dairy members that provides resources for members dealing with difficult circumstances. With this program, members can call a confidential phone line or go online to get help. Additionally, local staff representatives assigned to each dairy member farm are trained to listen to our farmers’ needs, help them overcome challenges and understand the programs and services we offer.
Do you or someone you know need help? Go here to find resources near you.
More information about mental illness can be found at NAMI.org. Learn more about rural America’s mental health crisis explored in the Something Greater Podcast here.