“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.”
First, I would love to thank everyone for being here in support of this brand-new venture into helping our fellow citizens to live with mental illness, not against it. This took great strides of progress to create Empire Mental Health Support during a time of uncertainty, of absence of support groups, and of a rise of a pandemic that caused even more people to be afflicted with depression and anxiety.
As some of you may know, most of the founding members of Empire Mental Health Support were a part of the now dissolved NAMI Sioux Falls affiliate. This left a giant gap in our community when it came to support group programs tailored to the individual who either is diagnosed with a mental illness or a family member of someone diagnosed with a mental illness. We knew there had to be an organization in place to take on the growing need for support.
The spring and summer were busy for us as we laid the groundwork for a better nonprofit that would not only entail peer and family support groups, but also education, advocacy, and activism in the mental illness community. Hence, Empire Mental Health Support was born. We have been a nonprofit since June 26, 2020. We have built up our own website at empirementalhealthsupport.org, two Facebook pages, three Zoom meetings so far, and an email address at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are currently awaiting our 501(c)(3) status. Once we achieve this status, we will work hard to begin peer and family support groups. It is our goal to have one a day. We already have seven trained Group Leaders to take on this responsibility. We are sure they will do an excellent job once they get started. We are hoping to hold meetings in several therapy clinics in Sioux Falls and other communities to be a “one-stop shop” for mental illness.
We will also be advocating for the Helpline, the new mental health triage clinic, those who would need a voice in mental health court and talking to our legislators in Pierre on Mental Health Day. Education would involve having professionals come talk to us about mental health, getting aid from NIMH and SAMSHA for materials, attending events such as the CIT training for first responders, etc. And activism would be for protesting discrimination against the mentally ill. This would include police brutality, using mental illness as a reason for committing crimes, portraying the mentally ill in a poor light on movies and TV, etc.
It is our future goal to reach across South Dakota, western Minnesota, and Northwestern Iowa for our organization to be a strong, long-lasting endeavor. That is one reason the Empire moniker was chosen, so we could further the program beyond Sioux Falls. We welcome all communities in our area to stand with us on our journey.
I want to take this time to truly thank our members and donors here today, for without your generous hearts, we would not be here. This includes those who also donated to our gofundme.com charity. A lot of the time, people living with mental illness feel they do not have a place in society. They may resort to substances to work through their anxiety and depression, which generally makes it worse. Then, they may also live with an addiction. Since one in every five adult Americans live with a mental illness, it is better to have someone to talk to. Someone who has been there.
So, it is important to have nonprofits like Empire Mental Health Support around. Our motto is “Live with Mental Illness, Not Against It!” Too many times people living with mental illness attempt or commit suicide because of a poor mental health support system. Since this is Suicide Prevention Month, it is important that we let people who feel that their lives are hopeless that they are not alone. I am a three-time survivor of attempted suicide myself. I would have liked a program such as Empire mental Health Support during those dark times.
We also hope to partner with Avera and Sanford as sponsors. In the future, we hope to have Dancing with the Sioux Falls Stars return as a major fundraiser for our organization. As president and founding member of Empire Mental health Support, I hope this becomes a reality for us. Until then, may we always have the support of compassionate people like you standing behind us through every step of the way. Thank you.