Community gathers to discuss mental health


Jay Waagmeester

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

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

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

Some of the organizations present were ISU Police Department’s 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, a mental health advocate and former Iowa State basketball player. Fennelly is an experienced speaker and shared her mental health story to a nearly full Great Hall.

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

Fennelly opened up about her struggles with bipolar disorder and what led to her seeking help, which resulted in her making 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 like there was something wrong with me because of bipolar [disorder].”

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

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

“The thing 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 to get licensed help or to just turn to one of your friends and say ‘I need you right now.’”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the twelfth most frequent cause of death in the United States. Additionally, one in five people will experience mental illness in a given year.

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

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

“If it’s not you [struggling with mental illness], educate yourself on how to talk to someone that is struggling,” Saxton said. “This is not anything different than a physical illness. We need to talk about it. We need to do something about it.”