Joyce works as a Care Coordinator in HealthPartners’ Behavioral Health department. Growing up in rural Mississippi with seven siblings, some family members suffered from mental illness, but treatment was never discussed. The topic of mental illness was taboo, which led to negative assumptions about a person being “crazy”. “Reducing stigma is important to me because I have watched family members not get the help they needed,” Joyce said when asked why she decided to become an Ambassador. “I’ve seen far too much unnecessary suffering and uncertainty about where to turn for help.” Joyce was all-in when her work supervisor introduced her to Make It OK and its focus on reducing the stigma of mental illnesses.

Joyce’s first presentation as an Ambassador was at a faith community, which inspired her to continue creating caring conversations in her community wherever she could. Joyce attended the National Baptist Conference on Christian Education in 2018, where she did a lot of coaching. People had the opportunity to ask questions about mental illness and share their stories and experiences. She felt honored to have contributed to the creation of a safe space for people to discuss their struggles.

When discussing how her work in Behavioral Health relates to Make It OK, Joyce mentions that a large part of her role involves connecting people to community resources. She explained, “The more resources they have on hand, the less likely they are to be in a crisis and end up in the hospital. We want to be there from the start and assist them along the way so that they do not face a crisis. Helping people understand what a crisis is, so they can recognize what a crisis looks like for them, symptoms of it, and make a plan for what to do when they recognize a crisis is beginning.”

When asked to share some tips and resources that could help someone start the conversation and become an Ambassador, Joyce mentioned that having resources available at all times can be beneficial, and thankfully, there are many on the Make It OK website. The first thing she does is talk about the stories Make It OK has available. Joyce shared that a favorite story of hers is about a young woman who was planning to attempt suicide but ultimately didn’t because she had tickets to a concert and didn’t want to miss it — the musical artist saved her life! Joyce also explains, “Ambassadors do not need to be experts, they only need to know enough to get people to an expert. That’s all you need to know, just know enough. You’ll pick up the rest along the way.”

Joyce encourages others to become a Make It OK Ambassador, sharing, “It’s the most important work we can do for our community. Getting people access to Make It OK and allowing them to talk openly without fear or shame. Once you become an Ambassador, you will help someone, even if you don’t hear about it. People are taking in the information.”