Stacy Lamke: Mental Health Matters!

Stacy Lamke, Vice President and Chief Steward of Local 1574 in the Brainerd area, has been actively involved in the AFSCME Mental Health Summits that Council 5 members organized and led. Her work at the Minnesotans at the Department of Human Services gives her a unique perspective into our current mental health system and the need for modernization and critical investments.

AFSCME members hosted a series of 6 mental health summits and once they concluded, they knew the work they started had to continue given the extraordinary amount of participation and desire. The next step included organizing a weekly mental health check-in that brings together union members and perfect strangers to break down barriers, get to know one another, and share their stories.

Everybody has a story to share, but many folks may not know where to share it. This weekly virtual check-in provides a safe and private space for everybody to come together, share their emotions, struggles, and hopes of what a better, modernized mental health system can look like. AFSCME members then organized a new group called Minnesotans for Better Mental Health Carea broad coalition of workers to "unite and advocate for higher standards, better services and working conditions for all of those affected with mental health issues." 

Members put their minds to work and came up with weekly virtual check ins every Tuesday morning at 9am, with the goal of expanding them to more days and times. They know that we are all in this together and our overall well-being is critical! The last few weeks and months have been very challenging physically and emotionally from the COVID-19 pandemic to the killing of George Floyd.

Stacy deeply knows the importance of why mental health matters and how these check-ins can improve our shared humanity: 

“Mental health and these weekly check-ins have been critically important to me because they remind us that we are not alone. They allow people to share and understand what their fellow workers are going through and recognize that we have much more in common with one another than what divides us. Personally, I am glad I decided to be a part of our AFSCME mental health planning committee because we have turned into a great group of friends that I have been able to lean on when I needed someone outside of my family.

"A strong, well-educated and stigma-free Minnesota is something that we should all work towards. I have an image of what I would like to see for Minnesota in the future. I want to see our legislature, all working-class people, and our communities working together to create a mental health system that works for all of our residents from birth to death simply because every person needs an outlet to share their feelings, emotions, and their powerful stories.

"All of us have a story to share. All of us have lessons and teachings that others can benefit from. We all have a voice and I am glad that our AFSCME family has a weekly outlet for members and the public to come together virtually and hear the stories of perfect strangers in a truly safe place. Ending the stigma of mental health, telling our stories, and fighting for critical investments to modernize our mental health system are our goals. Together - we will achieve them!

"NO MORE sending kids and Minnesota taxpayer dollars to other states. NO MORE treating people with mental illness like they are outcasts or different from us. NO MORE treating them as if they have no rights. NO LONGER will we ever be satisfied with a mental health system that is inadequate, understaffed, and lacks the infrastructure to care for our most vulnerable Minnesotans. 

"I am a mental health worker who knows mental illness will never go away, but the people who suffer from mental health should be treated like people. Removing the stigma and discrimination that comes along with mental health disorders and diagnoses is a critical priority. Education is what we want to provide to all Minnesotans to create awareness and end the stigma of mental illness once and for all!

"Individuals with mental illnesses are not “damaged." They deserve a system that treats them with dignity and respect. We will continue to be their advocate in our homes, communities, workplaces, and in the halls of power!"

Please join us in this movement. You can go to the AFSCME Council 5 website here for more information on their work. 

Photo courtesy Polina Zimmerman via Pexels