Church tackles topic of rural mental health

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Nov. 3—MANKATO — Mental health is in the news, and members of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Mankato are paying attention.

On Sunday they'll host a Rural Mental Health discussion at 10:30 a.m.

"We have read about this, we've heard about it and we just said, this is really a pressing local, state and national issue," said Bob Ihrig, a member of Bethlehem's adult education board and one of the organizers of Sunday's event. "People need to learn about it and get involved."

Sunday's speaker at the Rural Mental Health event is Megan Mahowald of the Blue Cross & Blue Shield Minnesota Center for Rural Behavioral Health at Minnesota State University. Her focus will be on the challenges of rural mental health and the work of the Center.

Rural residents like those in the Mankato area are at a high risk for mental illness, Ihrig said, adding that "it's kind of a silent epidemic. People are spread out a lot more and there may not be the level of resources available that you might find in, say, the Twin Cities area."

Those who are interested in the topic of rural mental health, but cannot attend Sunday's gathering at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, can find the discussion on the church website at

The video will be available online by Monday, Ihrig said.

Typically, the adult forums at Bethlehem Lutheran Church on Sundays draw about 25-30 people, he said, though sometimes as many as 45 people attend.

The event is free and open to the public at the church, which is at 720 S. Second Street in Mankato.

"It's not a big event but for people who are there, it's pretty important," Ihrig said. "We encourage the community to attend. We're trying to reach out to the community."