Make It OK

Event promotes awareness of mental health services

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
A group led by Michelle Carden and Luna, a therapy dog in training, walks around the Fort Dodge City Square during the noon hour Thursday as part of the Make It OK Day event. The event was dedicated to reducing the stigma surrounding mental health care.

When a person gets physically ill, they seek care without worrying if someone will find out that they went to the doctor.

That’s often not the case with mental illnesses. Mental health professionals know there are people who avoid seeking care because of the stigma surrounding it.

Various organizations are working to erase that stigma. Several of them came together on the Fort Dodge City Square over the lunch hour Thursday to make the case that it is OK for anyone at any age to seek mental health care.

The event was the community’s third annual Make It OK Day. Representatives of about 15 agencies set up tables at which they provided information about the services that are available. Some of the attendees walked a lap around the City Square. Food trucks from the Feed Shack and Ardys Mae were present.

“I think an event like this really helps to get the community aware that it is OK to talk about our mental health,” said Roxanne Fevold, behavioral health director for the Community Health Center of Fort Dodge.

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
Erik Gustafson, center, the senior program director in central Iowa for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, speaks to a man during the Make It OK Day event on the Fort Dodge City Square Thursday.

She said there are times when people need more than the support of family and friends. That is when professionals like the 11 member behavioral health staff at the center can help, she said.

“It’s OK to seek help,” Fevold said.

According to a handout provided at the event by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, seeking help is more than OK — it is courageous.

“We just really want to improve the lives of central Iowans affected by mental illness and let them know they’re not alone,” said Erik Gustafson, the organization’s senior program director for central Iowa.

Gustafson said his organization provides free mental health support groups and classes in 14 counties.

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
Luna, a 2-year-old goldendoodle who is a therapy dog in training, takes in the sights during the Make It OK Day event on the Fort Dodge City Square Thursday Green is the color associated with support for mental health and Luna is wearing her own green T-shirt for the cause.

The blue and white logo of UnityPoint Health could be found at two different tables on the City Square.

One of those tables showcased UnityPoint Health — Eyerly Ball. That organization provides quick response to people in a mental health crisis. It dispatches a mental health counselor to help within an hour of receiving a call. It has about 60 counselors in its network. It began operations in 2018 and started serving Webster County in 2021.

The other table sporting the blue and white logo was staffed by representatives of UnityPoint Health — Berryhill Center. That center has been in Fort Dodge for about 40 years. It provides outpatient mental health and substance abuse treatment for adults and children. There is a family medicine provider and a pharmacy in the center.

“You have to take care of your mental health,” said Sherri Dolecheck, a nurse navigator at the Berryhill Center. “That’s what we’re there for — to help people through those things.”

Other agencies at the event were the YWCA, Central Iowa Community Services, Community & Family Resources, Molina Health Care, Crisis Intervention Service, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Webster County Health Department, Catholic Charities, and Iowa Regional Autism Assistance Program.

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
Many of the people who gathered on the Fort Dodge City Square Thursday for the Make It OK Day event posed for a large group photo.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today