by Jessie Meyen

MONTICELLO Times

It’s no secret that winters in Minnesota can take a toll on the mental health of locals.

Winters are dark, lonely, and long. All of those adjectives used to describe Minnesota winters are now heightened in the wake of a pandemic that forces people to social distance, closes down restaurants where people usually gather and interact, and leaves loved ones unable to see each other during days of quarantine.

The year of 2020 has shed light on the importance of mental health and Hope in a Hopeless World - Mental Health Outreach is taking it seriously.

Elizabeth Frisk and Crystal Wimpfheimer started the group in 2018 at the Monticello Community Center.  

Once COVID-19 hit, the group moved to Westbridge Community Church in St. Michael where they had more room to social distance and follow the state guidelines. 

Now the group has expanded to a Mental Health Support Group in Ramsey, Hutchinson, and the comfort of their living room with zoom meetings.

Both Frisk and Wimpfheimer struggle with mental illness – which is what sparked the idea to start the group.

“We are not therapists, but we offer our lived experience and shared experiences to offer hope to those that are living through similar experiences which seems to be a great addition to therapy and other treatment options,” Wimpfheimer said. 

The St. Michael zoom group meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month 7-8:30 p.m.

The online group that’s open to anyone is the first Wednesday of every month 7-8 p.m. 

The Hutchinson group meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month 1-2 p.m. 

The Ramsey zoom group meets on the first and third Thursday of every month. 

Usually the meetings consist of reviewing meeting guidelines for those that are new, introductions, check ins and a chance to share what’s happened in the lives since the last meeting, a group discussion on a topic such as: anxiety, depression, mania, panic attacks, stigma, coping, relationships, etc., and then a closing of what everyone is looking forward to in the upcoming week.

Now that the outreach has transformed into an online group there’s been a lot of increased interest.

“We have had an increased interest in the online Zoom option over the past several months,” Wimpfheimer said. “There has been a positive response and many people have attended regularly.”

Some might think that the group is less intimate since it’s done through a computer screen, but that hasn’t been the case with Hope in a Hopeless World.

“We have been pleasantly surprised at how well online groups have gone,” Wimpfheimer said. “There are pros and cons to it just like with anything. We have the nights that you forget that you are talking by video and it feels like you are in the room with the others talking. And there are nights that technology gets in the way such as when the Internet connection is bad or the call drops unexpectedly.” 

Wimpfheimer said that they’ve been able to make connections with people that would’ve never been possible without zoom. She said that people from Washington and Canada have joined the group and she never expected to make connections with people that far away.

Since starting the group both have seen tremendous growth. It helps them just as much as it helps others.

“We always say that our support groups help us just as much as others attending the group,” Wimpfheimer said. “There is something so powerful about offering support to someone that is experiencing something that you have also been through. I love the look of relief when someone hears “I get it” or “I have been there”. We also have many regulars that attend our groups and it is so amazing to watch how opening, accepting, and supportive everyone is of new people that join us.”

People can get involved with Hope in a Hopeless World via Instagram or Facebook. You can also visit the website www.hopeinahopelessworld.com.

“The more attention our posts get, the higher the chance that those looking for support will be reached,” Wimpfheimer said.

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