Community comes together to discuss mental health – Iowa State Daily

Jay Waagmeester

Community members gathered at the Memorial Union to equip themselves with mental health tools on Tuesday evening.

The 8th Annual Story County Mental Health Expo featured 25 booths offering local support resources and advocacy for mental health.

“There’s so much support out there,” said Julie Saxton, mental health advocate for the Ames Police Department and co-chair of the Story County Mental Health Expo. “There are so many people who actually want to help and have services to help people.”

Some of the organizations present were ISU Police Department Therapy Dogs, Mary Greeley Medical, various counseling services, Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support, and Iowa State-affiliated resources.

The keynote speaker for the event was Lyndsey Fennelly, mental health advocate and former Iowa State basketball player. Fennelly is an experienced public speaker and shared her mental health story to a large room that was nearly full.

Tuesday’s event was “Lyndsey Fennelly’s favorite conversation to date in front of many friends,” according to her Twitter account. (Jay Waagmeester)

Fennelly opened up about her struggles with bipolar disorder and what led her to seek help, which led her to make a major change in her own life and habits.

“For anyone in this room who is struggling, your acceptance of who you are is huge,” Fennelly said. “My biggest challenge was feeling that there was something wrong with me because of bipolarity. [disorder].”

Fennelly ended her time on stage with self-care tactics and answered questions from attendees.

“If you have triggers, people, places, things that make you feel uncomfortable, avoid them,” Fennelly said. “You don’t owe anyone or anything more at any time than what makes you feel good.”

Fennelly remained realistic about her own journey throughout the night, reminding herself that she still had improvements to make.

“What I encourage all of us in this room to do is just improve our mental health,” Fennelly said. “You don’t have to have a diagnosis to go see someone or get approved help or just turn to one of your friends and say ‘I need you now’.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the twelfth most common cause of death in the United States. In addition, one in five people will suffer from mental illness in any given year.

“We have it in September because September is National Suicide Awareness Month, and exhibits like these do a great job of breaking down the stigma associated with mental health and addiction,” Saxton said.

The annual event hosts keynote speakers related to mental health and stigma around the topic.

“If it’s not you [struggling with mental illness], educate yourself on how to talk to someone who is struggling,” Saxton said. “It’s nothing but a physical illness. We have to talk about it. We have to do something about it.

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