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Strengthening and Improving Mental Health Access and Education in Iowa

Posted on May 10, 2021 in Healthy Living

Improving Mental Health

We often talk about the connection between our dental and vision on our overall health. We know that good dental and vision health have a positive impact on overall health and vice versa. The same can be said for our mental health. All the systems of our bodies work together and when our mental health is not well cared for, our bodies react to the imbalance.  

That’s why Delta Dental of Iowa is making a concerted effort to incorporate mental, social-emotional, and behavioral health into our giving programs. Across Iowa, more corporations, nonprofits, educational organizations and communities are recognizing the need for increased awareness and access to mental health education, services and providers.

As we’ve learned more about programs that support mental health education and awareness, we’ve also learned to recognize the stigma attached to the conversations about and treatment of mental health issues. Delta Dental is committed to addressing these gaps through partnerships and investments that will help all Iowans recognize the benefits of understanding mental health and removing barriers to support services.

What is stigma? According to the American Psychiatric Association, stigma is the negative or discriminatory attitude about someone because of their mental illness. There are different types of stigma that can be experienced in different aspects of a person’s life. The problem with stigma is that this lack of understanding and support may discourage people from seeking treatment, which can lead to other problems. More than half of people with mental illness do not seek treatment for fear of the reaction of their friends and family or perceived complications with their job. 

How is Delta Dental investing in mental health education and awareness? We approach our investment in several ways. Through our Foundation we provide funding to nonprofits that are collectively addressing direct access to care and education gaps in Iowa through training and community advocacy programs. In 2020, through our Health Equity and Ignite and Innovation grants, we invested in several unique programs addressing mental health and support systems including: 

  • Family Services, Inc. in Sioux City - $25,000 toward Self-Help Mental Health Wellness programming.
  • Please Pass The Love in Des Moines - $25,000 to implement statewide school mental health support groups.
  • Iowa ACEs 360 in Des Moines - $25,000 to build a robust advocacy network in communities across Iowa to help all individuals heal from trauma and support life-long healthy development. This is achieved by advocating for system changes to complex challenges related to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

Supporting mental health in the workplace. The Make It OK community campaign, led by the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative, reduces stigma by starting conversations and increasing understanding about mental illness. Organizations are encouraged to register as being committed to reducing stigma in their workplace. The campaign provides resources that help participants learn how to talk to friends, co-workers, and family about mental illness and tips on how to help someone in crisis. Delta Dental is a Make It OK registered workplace and provided a $25,000 Innovation grant to the program to help promote awareness of mental illness. We are also showing our support on May 20 by wearing green for Mental Health Awareness Month.

How does Delta Dental address mental health internally?  Delta Dental recognized the stress and anxiety employees may have been facing this past year, especially as many of us worked from home, while balancing personal challenges of the pandemic. To help employees reduce their stress, we hosted a virtual webinar with a clinical psychologist  to provide emotional wellness training. Mindfulness, journaling, and time away from our screens were encouraged to ensure we were keeping our mental health a priority.. 

Raising awareness in our community. Across Iowa, we’ve looked for opportunities to create conversations, educate and share information with Iowans about mental health and emotional wellbeing. We are a supporting sponsor of "Lifting The Veil,” a Business Record Des Moines-produced series of six virtual conversations focused on the impact of COVID-19 on our mental health and families. This broad-reaching program features community mental health experts, the medical community, and community support advocates to provide insight on how we can support each other in maintaining our mental and emotional health at home and at work. 

Collectively, Delta Dental is proud to support these programs and efforts to increase access to care, education, and awareness of mental health as we work to decrease the associated stigma. This helps us continue to work toward our goals to invest in the overall health of all Iowans and make our relationships stronger on every level.