In 2009, Utah Valley Hospital spearheaded the creation of an annual Mental Health Services Awareness Night (MHSAN). Its purpose: To arm local ecclesiastical and community leaders – people to whom others turn for help – with knowledge about treatment resources for those struggling with mental health or emotional challenges.
For years, the hospital had been told that people in the community didn’t know about local mental health resources. So, with the support of its community outreach committee, Utah Valley brought all the players together to create an event where leaders could get their questions answered and gain a better understanding about where to send others for help.
“The more these leaders know concerning available resources, the more effectively they can serve those who are seeking help,” said Maria Black, APRN, Utah Valley Nurse Administrator.
All Utah County government agencies, hospitals and not-for-profit organizations that provide mental health services are invited to participate in Mental Health Services Awareness Night. The evening’s format has always included speakers and a “booth room” where attendees gather information from more than 30 organizations in Utah County.
Speakers at the evening workshop have not always been experts in mental health or on the resources available. Their primary role has been to encourage participants to:
- Feel more inclined to learn what services are available in the community.
- Feel more trust in the agencies and service providers who have worked hard to learn how to help clients.
- Feel more comfortable working in a joint fashion with service providers; and
- Feel less stigma associated with mental/emotional conditions.
The speakers’ motivational and compassionate approach has encouraged participants to connect emotionally with the people in their circles who suffer from mental health issues. This connection leads to a determination to act.
“Most, if not all, families and neighborhoods are impacted by such suffering, which is both preventable and treatable. The resources exist, but we must help people know where to find them,” said Black.
MHSAN consistently draws an audience of more than 400 people who fill religious, educational, medical and law enforcement leadership roles. Past participants have shared many of the reasons behind their attendance. For example:
- “I’m an ecclesiastic leader and need the resources identified at the conference.”
- “I haven’t known how to help or what to say to some people I meet with.”
- “I’m in a Relief Society in a young single adult ward and some of my sisters are struggling with mental health issues. I also struggle and want to make sure I know where I can go for help.”
Brigham Young University’s Comprehensive Clinic was the first community partner to support the hospital in its efforts to create the MHSAN. Other service agencies also came on board including:
- Wasatch Mental Health
- LDS Family Services
- Mountain View Hospital
- Provo Canyon Behavioral Hospital
- United Way
Together, these organizations have found an effective way to connect people with resources. Attendees have consistently reported an increase in their knowledge of resources and a desire to encourage others to attend the MHSAN in the future. Such feedback confirms the vital need for such an event and fuels the hospital’s commitment to keep it going.