Mayor Chris Jensen decided personal experience was an effective way to encourage Noblesville residents to seek help for mental health issues.
He and licensed therapist and Pathways to Healing Counseling Center founder Kristen Boice started a weekly Zoom discussion in April called Mental Health Mondays. The Zoom call is broadcasted on the City of Noblesville’s Facebook Live platform, and approximately 100 residents have tuned in live each week, with thousands viewing the information afterward.
“It really started with a suggestion from Kristen,” Jensen said. “We have been talking about the importance of mental health in Noblesville for several years. It was one of the key pillars of focus we ran on to obtain this office, and we know we wanted to have a strong push in mental health in Noblesville.”
Although COVID-19 and the subsequent feelings of fear, depression, anxiety and issues between relationships was the catalyst, Boice and Jensen plan to continue the biweekly Mental Health Mondays indefinitely.
“I was willing to be vulnerable as a leader and talk about my personal experiences around mental health, as a leader in the community and someone with a young family, and it took off,” Jensen said.
Boice said the pandemic has stirred public feelings of depression and anxiety.
“This was a way to come together, to offer support, coping mechanisms, connection and how to work through this challenging time together,” Boice said. “We have hit some really tough topics along the way. We have talked about parenting, racism, anxiety, depression, PTSD.
“We’ve talked about social isolation and what that means, and I think what makes it work is, we are trying to make it relatable with personal experience, and I think people like that they feel like they can connect to that.”
Jensen said the mental health conversations could continue for several years.
“We are going to keep going as long as the community needs it,” he said. “We don’t want this to be a blip on the radar. It’s really about exposing our culture to why this is so important. This is a lifelong commitment.”
Boice said she’s seen patients who’ve said the Mental Health Monday conversations encouraged them to seek therapy on their own.
“We want to change the conversations about mental health and empower the community to know how to handle hard, challenging and difficult emotions, situations and times,” Boice said. “If we can equip the community and bring it to the light, we can help people free themselves from the past and their traumas of the past and their fears.
“I’ve gotten feedback that it’s encouraged people to get the help they’ve been wanting to get, and now they feel safe enough to get the help they want or need.”
Jensen said in March, there was more than a 100 percent increase in suicidal or social emotional 911 calls by Noblesville residents. At Pathways to Healing, Boice has seen an increase in teens struggling with feelings of isolation during the pandemic.
“Throughout generations, the loneliness seems to be one of the major catalysts for people coming in,” she said.
For more or to view past Mental Health Monday conversations, visit cityofnoblesville.org.
Spreading mental health awareness outside of Noblesville
Due to Mayor Chris Jensen’s connections, the Mental Health Monday initiative is spreading outside of Noblesville.
“One of the things I’ve been most encouraged about is it isn’t just a Noblesville thing. I have a sister-in-law in Ohio who tunes in, my mom’s best friend from high school in Texas tunes in,” Jensen said. “The Town of Culver, Ind., has taken our conversations and linked them directly to their Facebook page to share our Mental Health Mondays with their community. I have people come up to me all the time at the store. The stories have really made people feel more comfortable talking about mental health.
“From a government standpoint, if I can be open and honest myself, I think the community reacts appropriately to that.”