Local group plans activities to highlight mental health

People don’t question the need to address their physical health.

Advice from doctors such as eating nutritious food, exercising regularly and getting proper sleep have been proven to make people’s bodies healthier.

But too often, people neglect the mental side of their health. That’s why one local health group is spending the month of May highlighting the ways to be mentally and behaviorally healthy.

Upstream Prevention, an organization that aims to support positive mental health, decrease suicides and address substance abuse in Johnson County, planned a series of activities, events and education in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month.

People can play self-care BINGO by completing affirming tasks, such as reading something you enjoy, doing something kind for someone else and taking a pause from social media. They can sign up for training to learn how to help someone who may be struggling with mental health, and bring the family to Canary Creek Drive-in for a film and a free children’s book.

“In general, there’s a lot of stigma in mental health. So the goal is just trying to normalize it, like we do physical health,” said Hope Thompson, project coordinator for Upstream Prevention. “The more we talk about it, the more we do things around it, it helps normalize it.”

Mental Health Awareness Month is recognized throughout the country to fight the stigma of mental illness, educate the public and advocate for policies that support those with mental illness and their families.

Though mental health is a subject that should be at the forefront of discussion year-round, having a specified month to spotlight it helps turn the public’s focus to it, Thompson said.

“A lot of people feel alone with their struggles, because it’s not talked about. So this is another way to put out there that you’re not alone. There are a lot of people that are struggling with some of the same things. It’s just not normally heard,” she said. “We really wanted to engage the community.”

As Upstream Prevention was making its goals for May activities, it focused on a few keys areas.

The organization is hosting a Leadership Johnson County workshop in the fall, and has passes that it can give away to people. Thompson and others came up with a self-care BINGO, with healthy suggestions to take care of your health both physically and mentally. People could download a BINGO card, and if they complete all of the squares, they can be registered to win one of the seats to the workshop.

Organizers also wanted to start mental health conversations with young people. Upstream Prevention partnered with Windrose Health Network to create and print activity books for children, then the Johnson County Public Library distributed the books at its four branches.

Then, on May 14, Upstream Prevention will host the early movie at Canary Creek Drive-in. The first 100 cars who are interested will receive a copy of “Flicker of Hope” by Julia Cook, a children’s story that focuses on resilience and normalizing asking for help.

“In terms of educating anyone about mental health and suicide prevention, it’s about starting the conversation and generating more activity around it,” Thompson said. “We thought this was some fun ways we could engage the community with that people will feel good about.”

Upstream Prevention is also planning one of its QPR Gatekeeper trainings — short for Question, Persuade, Refer. Participants are learning how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to question, persuade and refer someone to help.

The training is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the White River branch of the Johnson County Public Library.

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Mental Health Awareness Month

What: An effort to draw attention to mental and behavioral health issues with special activities and education.

Who: Upstream Prevention, an organization that aims to support positive mental health, decrease suicides and address substance abuse in Johnson County.

When: Throughout the month of May


  • Children’s mental health awareness activity book, available at Johnson County Public Library branches
  • Self-care BINGO, available to play throughout May
  • QPR Gatekeeper training for suicide prevention, 6-8 p.m. Thursday, White River branch of the Johnson County Public Library. Register for the class at upstreamprevention.eventbrite.com.
  • Book giveaway and drive-in movie, Friday, Canary Creek Drive-In Theater, Franklin. Upstream Prevention will be hosting the early movie, and provide the first 100 interested cars with a copy of a popular children’s book “A Flicker of Hope” by Julia Cook.

Information and other activities: upstreamprevention.org