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Reducing Stigma of Mental Illness in Red Wing & Goodhue County

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The challenge: About 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences a mental illness in a given year

To assess the mental health and other community health needs, local public health agencies in Minnesota are required by state law to develop a health improvement plan with and for the community. For the 2014-2018 period, mental health was identified as the second highest priority in Goodhue County. To begin to address this need, the Red Wing Shoe Company Foundation, Goodhue County Health and Human Services and Mayo Clinic Health System Red Wing formed the Greater Red Wing Area Mental Health Initiative. It included forming a local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), updating United Way’s 211 referral line with mental health resources and launching a Make It OK mental health anti-stigma campaign.

In 2014, a public-private coalition was formed to expand this initiative across Goodhue County.


  • Decrease the number of residents over the age of 14 who seek emergency hospital psychiatric treatment

  • Decrease the rate of suicide

  • Increase the number of people who seek treatment early The strategy: raise awareness and reduce stigma

Red Wing and Goodhue County focused on reducing stigma as a strategy to encourage people to seek help because shame and lack of understanding are often barriers to people seeking treatment.

The county-wide campaign includes:

  • Having a presence at 10 community events each year by 2018 such as the Goodhue County Fair and the Prairie Island Health Fair

  • Adding Make It OK to Youth for Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) training program for 250 school, law enforcement, fire department and health and human services staff. YMHFA teaches how to assist adolescents who have a mental health problem

  • Expanding the 211 free community helpline to include mental health services

  • Implementing Make It OK slides as part of training sessions for nearly 1,000 employees at Mayo Clinic Health System facilities in Cannon Falls, Lake City and Red Wing

  • Providing a Make It OK presentation for the Goodhue County Health and Human Services Board

  • Implementing an anti-stigma campaign at the Red Wing Shoe company including weekly emails from leaders with their personal stories and leveraging the interactive Make It OK toolkit to educate employees.

Future activities:

  • Expand employer anti-stigma campaigns

  • Free public screenings of Twin Cities Public Television documentaries, and movies such as A Beautiful Mind and Call Me Crazy

  • Make It OK presentations for staff and for students in schools

  • Presentations in at least half of the 183 churches in Goodhue County

  • Make It OK presentations for city councils in all 10 cities in Goodhue County and at the Red Wing Human Rights Commission