Did you know that 1 in 5 people will have some kind of mental illness in a given year? (source)

Recent data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) show that many adults and youth in Iowa are struggling with their mental health.

As mentioned in the 2023-2027 State Health Improvement Plan, 13.9% of BRFSS participants reported experiencing frequent mental distress in 2021 (source). This percentage has been increasing since 2013, but at a higher rate since 2018. The rate reported in 2021 is the highest percentage to date. Frequent mental distress was significantly more prevalent among the LGBT+ population, those with a lower household income and people living with disabilities.

Also in 2021, YRBS results indicated that nearly two out of five 9th through 12th graders reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks in a row during the past year (source). Furthermore, 22.6% of Iowa high school students have seriously considered attempting suicide during the last 12 months. These alarming data highlight the importance of addressing the mental health of people in Iowa.

Thankfully, there are many organizations throughout the state who are dedicating time and resources to this statewide priority. In this newsletter, we are excited to highlight The Healthiest State Initiative's "Make It OK" programming.

What Is Make It OK?

Make It OK is "a community campaign to reduce stigma by starting conversations and increasing understanding about mental illness." Make It OK was initially launched in Minnesota by HealthPartners in 2012. The Healthiest State Initiative launched Make It OK in Iowa in 2019.

Make It OK aims to educate people in Iowa about mental illness and stigma, tools to create caring conversations and resources to help those in need. Make It OK's main mission is to break the stigma - but how do we do that? Check out the action steps below!

How to Help Break The Stigma

1. Share your story. Many of us struggle - including Public Health Professionals. Sharing your story is a brave way of helping others recognize they are not alone. For inspiration, check out these Iowa-specific Make It OK stories. If you are interested in telling your personal story of living with a mental illness in order to end stigma for others, please email info@iowahealthieststate.com.

2. Educate yourself and others. Make It OK is a great place to start building your understanding about the stigma surrounding mental health and mental illnesses. Monthly virtual presentations and Ambassador trainings are available at no cost.

We recognize that Make It OK is only the first step to building your knowledge and may leave you with additional questions. You may find these other trainings helpful:

3. Reframe the way you speak. Our words matter. Approach mental health-related conversations with active listening, empathy and a willingness to help.

  • 988 (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) - We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. Call or text 988 for support.
  • Your Life Iowa - 24/7 crisis support in the state of Iowa. Call 1-855-581-8111 or text 1-855-895-8398
  • Crisis Text Line - Text "HOME" to 741741 for crisis help
  • The Trevor Project (LGBTQ Crisis and Suicide Hotline) - 866-488-7386
  • Veterans Crisis Line - 1-800-273-8255
  • NAMI Iowa - offering support groups and education to outreach and advocacy
  • 211 - a free, comprehensive information and referral system to health and human service programs, community services, disaster services and governmental programs

Mental health is often a somber topic, but it doesn't have to be. Instead of avoiding this topic altogether, lean into these conversations and do everything in your power to "Make It OK."

*** This newsletter was developed in partnership with The Healthiest State Initiative. If your organization would like to partner with Healthy Iowans on a newsletter topic, please email us at healthyiowans@idph.iowa.gov.


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