By CHARITY SMITH firstname.lastname@example.org IRONWOOD
– Area junior/high school students took a field trip to the Historical Ironwood Theatre on Tuesday morning for a screening and discussion on the film “ Coming Up for Air; It All Happens in a Moment.” The film “focuses on the struggles and the uncertainty that family and friends of a person experiencing mental health issues go through,” according to a press release from Gogebic County Community Mental Health.
“It really isn’t focused on suicide,” said Micki Sorensen, quality improvement coordinator and community liaison for CMH. “That’s what’s different about it from a lot of the other things which we’ve had in the past, which were very suicide based. This is less of that. This focuses more on mental health and families and how people, caregivers, and friends, and families of people who are undergoing mental health issues cope and when to recognize that it is something they need mental health for and families and how it affects them.”
Over 400 students from Ironwood, Bessemer, Wakefield-Marenisco and Ewen Trout Creek as well as the alternative schools attended the presentation, according to Sorensen. She said they had extended an invite to other districts as well, but they were unable to participate as they had state testing this week. Sorensen said she was amazed at how well the students handled the film, as it is about a young man in college who had a scholarship for diving and how the pressures of life affected him. She said that she was worried at first about how they would deal with the man’s lack of attire, but she said she was impressed with how respectful the students were and how interested they were in the film and the subject matter. “I’m so proud of our area kids and how they treated this. They were very adult about it,” said Sorensen. “They were very receptive to it and listened afterward.” She said the film was two hours long and addressed how crises can lead to tragedy. It was followed by a discussion on available mental health resources, how to ask for help and how situations are handled by local agencies.
Sorensen said guest speakers included members of local law enforcement agencies, Pat Gallinagh and Crystal Suzik of the Range Suicide Prevention Council, as well as counselors at CMH, and Aspirus health doctors. She said the speakers spoke of their roles in a mental health crisis and encouraged the students not to be afraid to reach out for help. Sorensen said that counselors were available throughout the film for anyone who needed it. “We haven’t had anything that was based on the topics that were covered in the movie,” said Dan Niemi, superintendent of Bessemer Area schools, on his decision to send all 9- 12 grade students to the event. “
I think our kids really need some guidance in identifying some possible triggers, possible signs of kids that are maybe struggling, so I decided we’re going to send them all.” He said they have not had any follow up at the school yet, but they probably will. He said he believes the kids are still trying to put into perspective how the movie and the presentation afterwards relates to their personal lives. Niemi said that both himself and elementary principal/district counselor Mark Switzer are available for any students that are experiencing troubles. Sorensen said the movie creates awareness on how families can promote mental health wellness and look at treatment and not shy away from it.
She said a lot of times, people focus just on the individual that is going through the crisis, but this got a lot more in depth with how the families cope with it as well. “The kids thought it was very beneficial,” said Niemi. “There were some things that came up and it was good. … I’m sure the kids are still digesting it. It was a good opening for our students to get back into this with the suicide prevention, signs symptoms, things like that.” He said the district has not been able to have those kind of events since the start of the pandemic. Neimi said it was a good segue after the pandemic to get the students back into thinking that there may be other students, friends or classmates who may be having a tough time or struggling. He said he thinks it was a very good experience for the students.
CMH was able to bring the film to the HIT thanks to a grant from the Jonathan A. Erickson Memorial Fund and the Gogebic Range Health Foundation. Sorensen said it cost about $2,000 to bring the film presentation to the HIT for the community. The film was also viewed by the general community on Tuesday night and followed by a discussion. Sorensen said there were about 60 community members who attended the film in the evening. “Our goal with this is to help decrease stigmatizing of mental health issues and making people not be afraid to ask for help as well as not being afraid to ask people if they need help and hoping to get families and community members involved as being part of the process and helping people get help when they need it,” said Sorensen. “Letting our community know what resources we have available in our area.” She said the resources include a crisis line, CMH, Aspirus Hospital, etc.
Sorensen said they focused on how, as a local community, we are all in this together, rather than the resources available at just one entity. “We have a lack of resources compared to cities. However, we use (are resources) in different ways,” said Sorensen. “Our law enforcement are first responders that deal with this crisis everyday. So we come at it as a huge approach with multiple entities in our area.”
The crisis line is available 24/7. If you are in need of help or know someone who is, contact the crisis line at 800-348- 0032. “Even if you don’t know if it is a crisis or not, you can call,” Sorensen said. “They can help you figure out whether or not it is something that needs to go further. You don’t have to wait until it is almost too late to call.”