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August 15, 2023

Join a Club for Mental Health!

The vision of the Hamilton East Public Library is to be “A connected library in a connected community.” From book clubs to writing groups, maker gatherings, ENL classes, and more, the library organizes, hosts, and participates in a variety of club and group meetings in our local Fishers and Noblesville community (see everything we offer on our calendar of events!). We are excited to partner with the Fishers Health Department and the City of Fishers on their efforts to help individuals get connected to local clubs and groups to promote better mental health and wellness. Hear from the director of Fishers Health Department on why social connectivity matters and how you can get involved!

“As the first director of the only health department in the nation started during the COVID-19 pandemic (as far as I know), I have learned a lot. These have not been easy times for any of us. To protect from an imminent physical threat, we challenged our fragile social structure, which had been eroding for several years prior to the pandemic. Social support is critical to our mental wellbeing, yet even on the other side of the pandemic, we find ourselves facing an “Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation,” as described in the U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory. Facing this new epidemic has been a top priority for my role since shifting out of pandemic response mode.

Many of us feel lonely and isolated in a way we never had before. In some ways, the pandemic clarified and helped to distill our values and priorities. For example, for my family, the pandemic taught us the value of sitting down together for a family meal. As a household with school-age kids in multiple activities, the schedule is hectic, and it can be difficult to achieve a family meal together, but we try as often as possible. For parents managing kids with hectic schedules, it can be very lonely, and we often neglect our own needs for social connectedness while chauffeuring kids and trying to achieve healthy family meals.

The Importance of Friendships and Social Support

According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory report, lack of social connection is associated with an increased risk for multiple conditions, including: premature death; heart disease and stroke; anxiety, depression and dementia; and increased susceptibility to infection. This fundamental need is as important to survival as food, water, and shelter. Recent studies estimate that loneliness and isolation are more widespread than smoking, diabetes, and obesity, yet it is rarely mentioned as a major health problem.

In the past, medical and public health officials have been relatively separated from behavioral health services. Research continues to indicate, however, the need for addressing whole health more comprehensively. With the creation of the health department, we have an opportunity to continue the great work already done by the city utilizing a public health preventative lens. Our teams have used the last several years to study available evidence and to build a preventative mental health strategy. Our aim is to dig into the root causes driving our mental health challenges and address them as close to the cause, and as far from the crisis point, as possible.

Stigma Free Fishers

Well before COVID-19 hit, Fishers was known for our early advocacy and systems change approach to mental health and wellness efforts. The Mental Health Task Force, which generated Stigma Free Fishers, has been a key driver behind the city’s efforts to tackle mental health challenges.

Our Stigma Free Fishers initiative has purchased a platform, CredibleMind, with validated mental health resources and assessment tools, for the community. To find out more about how social support networks are critical to your health, check out our new Stigma Free Fishers website and learn more about how to get involved. If you’re not sure how you’re doing in this area, take an assessment. The site is free and anonymous. Check back often for local resources- we are always adding and updating.

Using inspiration gleaned from Thomas Insel’s book Healing: Our Path from Mental Illness to Mental Health, we have structured our workgroup “mental health action” teams centered around People, Place, Purpose, and Prevention Resources, dedicated to building these components in our community.

Building Social Connectedness

Our “People” Mental Health Action team has a primary focus of building social connectedness in our community. We are dedicated to bringing people together in as many ways as possible. Our “Club Day” is one of many actions of this team. Our first Club Day is this Saturday, August 19 at the Fishers Farmer’s Market highlighting our area social, service, and support clubs and how to get involved and connected to people of like interests. Additionally, we are launching “Club Hub” as a program for businesses to self-enroll in to serve as a host site welcoming area clubs to their facility.

From my perspective as a resident, the Hamilton East Public Library has been committed to social connectedness and serving as a Club Hub since well before we started considering mental health as a city. From their events (May the Fourth is a family favorite) to clubs that they host (my daughter was a fan of the Tween Drama Club and is a current member of the Scribe Circle) to providing a space for area groups (I have attended many Girl Scout meetings at the library), they are a key community partner always committed to bringing people together and offering space for connectedness. This is why they were our first invite to Club Day!

Pictured left to right at the Hope for Happiness event, May 13, 2023: Monica Heltz, Fishers Health Department Public Health Director; Brittany Cheviron, LCSW, LSSW, FHD Social Worker; Suzanne Clifford, CEO of Inspiring Transformations.

I’ll be looking to connect at Club Day for my own social connectedness needs. I’m looking for a good book club or hiking group to join, or perhaps just some fun people to hang out with and learn something new. In the meantime, here are some other tips our team has put together in preparation for this day:

Tips to Find Social Support

• Come to Club Day on August 19, 8am-12pm at the Fishers Farmer’s Market at the Amp!
• Check out apps and tools such as Meetup to find or start a local interest group.
• Get involved as a volunteer to find people with like-minded interests. Check out opportunities on the Volunteer Fishers site.
• Find a new hobby at the Fishers Maker Playground or the Ignite Studio
• Call an old friend or a family member you haven’t spoken with in a while- they are craving your connection as much as you are craving theirs, and somebody has to reach out first!
• Arrange an activity to meet your neighbors, get involved in the PTO, or even hang out at an area dog park (studies actually support this!). Get more ideas from our Stigma Free Fishers site!

If you are interested in learning more about these teams and the actions we are taking, feel free to email mentalhealth@fishers.in.us.”

About Monica Heltz

A Fishers resident for 11 years, Monica Heltz is proud to serve as the first public health director of the Fishers Health Department after spending the previous 10 years with the Marion County Public Health Department. She holds numerous degrees, including a Doctor of Nursing Practice and a Master of Public Health. Dr. Heltz has two decades of nursing and public health experience, with a diversity of experience in such areas as environmental health, tuberculosis, immunizations, home visiting, emergency care, and sexually transmitted infections. Dr. Heltz has presented regionally and nationally, with poster and oral presentations at the National Association of City and County Health Officials Annual Meeting, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement Annual Meeting, the TB Controller’s Association Annual Meeting, and the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting. She has also presented nationally for the New Jersey Medical School Global TB Institute and at TB Conferences in Michigan and Indiana. Dr. Heltz has a passion for public health and a demonstrated commitment to public health and community service both locally and globally. She is thrilled to be able to put this commitment to use in her home community.