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Frontline Reflections: Cre Larson and Tom Gaffney

Cre Larson is the executive director of First Call for Help of Itasca County, a nonprofit that provides free, confidential and nonjudgmental crisis intervention, active listening and information and referral services. In 2020, Blandin Foundation awarded three grants totaling $48,000 to increase access to mental health services for Itasca area residents during COVID-19.

“The year has presented many financial hardships and mental health challenges for ourselves, our families, neighbors, community members and many residents of our state. As we look around and pose the question of “what we can do to help” those we see suffering, it is often hard to “act” on our desire to be helpful when we are not sure of how to go about it. This feeling of not knowing what to do often elicits fear and avoidance as our reaction.  Often when individuals are experiencing isolation, depression and other mental health symptoms triggered by ongoing stress and difficult situations like 2020 has brought, it is simply human connection that can bring relief from their pain.

You might ask next, what type of human connection can one offer in the face of COVID? Impactful connections can be gifted by a simple phone call, a letter, lending an ear, or even by ZOOM or facetime.  Offering words of encouragement can be your greatest gift. Sharing your own issues, struggles, and thoughts can quickly help someone realize they are not alone and that someone else understands. These conversations can lead to an understanding that gratefulness and grief can co-exist, and do for most of us.

The most impactful ACTION we can take is to reach out to others and make them aware of their value and worth by acknowledging what they have done for us or the role they have played in our lives. This expression of worth can not only lift them up, it helps us “walk in gratitude” and see this life through a more positive and hopeful set of lenses. In addition to reaching out to others, self-care and self-awareness is necessary and requires daily practice. My favorite visual aid is my Grateful Vase. This is a daily task in which I end each day by writing down some event, thing or person I am grateful for today and then place it in the vase. Each day as I add another piece of paper I visibly see the vase growing, my gratitude multiplying until it overflows. This vase helps me, even during hard and seemingly hopeless experiences, know it will pass and this strife will always be outweighed by all the reasons I have to be grateful.

Taking care of ourselves and reaching out to others are ways we can all stay on a healthier path to walking through the challenges of 2020 and mental health symptoms we may be experiencing. This path can be made easier by linking those you care about or are worried about to services to support them. First Call for Help (326-8565 or 2-1-1) is available 24 hours a day to provide you with emergency resources, community counselors and links to support services to help you “Act” and be the connection others may be desperately waiting for.”

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