October 2nd kicks off the beginning of Mental Health Awareness week. A week dedicated to raising awareness of mental health conditions that are often misunderstood or aren’t discussed much at all, if ever. A week to remind all of us that mental health is essential and that those living with mental health issues are deserving of care, understanding, compassion, and pathways to hope, healing, recovery, and fulfillment. Lucky for those of us in Greater St. Cloud, Marc Van Herr is working every week of the year to end the stigma and provide resources to our communities with The Beautiful Mind Project.
“Twenty years ago, my four-year-old daughter saved me. I had plans to take my life, and as I was gathering myself in what I thought would be my final moments, images of my daughter came into my mind. I began to imagine what her life would be like without me in it and how it would impact her. In that moment I found the strength to stop and return home. Two years later I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. But if you didn’t live in my house you wouldn’t have known I struggled with mental health because I didn’t share it with anyone. I didn’t want it to affect friendships or career opportunities.
Then, seven years ago – a decade after my bipolar diagnosis – I was diagnosed with diabetes. I shared a post on social media the next day because I wanted ideas and suggestions on medication, exercise, diet, recipes – and the response I received was overwhelming! But it got me thinking, why did I share one diagnosis within 24 hours after receiving it, but a decade went by without sharing the other? When you think about it, they are the same – they are both chemical imbalances in the body that require medication for it to operate and function properly; they just affect different parts of your body.
So, I started talking about my mental health. I wanted to humanize it; that’s when I launched The Beautiful Mind Project (TBMP). It began as a part-time passion project; we provided educational seminars and presentations, including a series on “Mental Health in the Workplace” for multiple Chambers of Commerce, businesses, and organizations. The ideas were really flowing.”
Marc had his first ‘big idea’ several years ago when thinking about Urgent Care for Mental health. “With the average wait time for an appointment often stretching past a month, I set out to create a way for people to get the help they need when they need it most BEFORE it reaches a full-blown crisis. We are able to provide people with same or next-day appointments, we take insurance, and treat most conditions and mental health issues. I received a Change Maker nomination in 2019 and was selected as 1 of 7 fellows in the state of Minnesota with the Initiative Foundation in 2020 for my Urgent Care idea. This two-year fellowship allowed me to leave my career and focus on mental health full time to develop the Urgent Care program model.”
Since making TBMP his full-time career, Marc has seen incredible things happen. Fundraising and grant dollars have increased by 400%, allowing formalized community programming. In addition to advocacy, educational programming, and scholarships, they’ve introduced a variety of programming ranging from cost-free counseling for anyone, no questions asked, to postpartum support for Moms, and programs specifically for teens and parents. On October 12th, they’ll also celebrate the Grand Opening of their Mindology Mental Wellness Center.
“The Mindology Mental Wellness Center is literally unlike anything else in the state of Minnesota. It offers a combination of resources for individuals to maintain and improve their mental health, including traditional talk therapy as well as our Urgent Care program (the “Mind”) as well as things like yoga, meditation, healing touch, cardio drumming, chair fitness, massage, life coaching, spiritual direction, art nights, music nights, and educational seminars (the “ology”).” They currently have 4 therapists on staff and hope to reach 10 by the end of the year. “We have a 5-year lease and the plan is to purchase our own building at some point before then to allow us to expand the number of therapists we have as well as increase the capacity for the other wellness services we offer. We very much believe in creating a community at our facility and would encourage you to visit or schedule a private tour.”
“Our mission is to change the way people access and experience their mental health care. The challenge is that the demand for mental health services is greater than the supply. I find it unacceptable for someone to have to wait a month for an appointment for mental health – we’d never accept that for our physical health. What makes TBMP unique is that everything we do is done with the users in mind. The majority of the programs were born out of personal experiences and frustrations with the current mental health care system and creating something that puts people over profits.”
In addition to referring friends and family to their facilities and program, you can support The Beautiful Mind Project by attending fundraisers, or becoming a personal or corporate sponsor. Learn more at https://thebeautifulmindproject.org/