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Monroe County residents are invited to attend “Empowered Voices Save Lives” − a free community event to fight mental health stigma.

Mental health speaker Mettie Spiess will discuss the issue in the Recreation Building at Tomah Recreation Park from 6-7 p.m. on Thursday, April 19. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and there will be a resource fair prior before (5:30-6 p.m.) and after (7-7:30 p.m.) after the event.

Spiess, a Wisconsin native, is the 2016 National Alliance on Mental Illness Education Advancement Award winner and founder of A World Without Suicide. She’ll discuss her journey with mental illness, losing two brothers to suicide and the lessons she has learned from uniting survivors across the country.

Mental health has not only been a concern on the national and state levels but on the county level as well. Since 2012, mental health has been one of the top health priorities in Monroe County’s Community Health Improvement Plan.

“We are really excited to have Mettie come and speak to the community,” said Kayleigh Day, Monroe County Health Department community health educator. “We’ve had many concerned citizens and organizations coming to us and saying, ‘what can we do to help those in our communities that are suffering?’ I think community members will connect with Mettie’s story and feel inspired to take positive action around mental health and mental health stigma.”

Earlier in the day, Spiess will speak to sophomores from Tomah High School, Brookwood High School, Sparta SAILS, and Sparta High Point as part of a teen wellness day. The idea for the Teen Wellness Day arose out of the community health improvement plan priority areas and teen health issues identified by the Monroe County Safe Community Coalition’s review of the 2017 youth risk behavior survey. Presenters from Gundersen Health System, Sparta Police Department, Tomah Memorial Hospital, Fort McCoy Police Department, Univeristy of Wisconsin-La Crosse and the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin will be providing activities and education to address the following teen health behaviors: driving safety, mental health and substance abuse prevention.

This event is brought to the community by the Monroe County Safe Community Coalition, Monroe County Health Department, Monroe County Traffic Safety Commission, and Monroe County Mental Health Coalition.

For questions related to the event, contact Monroe County Health Department at 608-269-8666.

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Tomah Journal editor

Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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