Counselor wants to help more kids with mental health needs

Mandy Strong, Sanford Equity in Education Scholarship recipient, works on mobile crisis team

A group of adults surround a young woman holding a giant Sanford Health scholarship check in their office hallway.

Mandy Strong is a behavioral health counselor for Sanford Health in Bemidji, Minnesota, who is working on a master’s degree with intention to work with children.

The additional education will aid her in refining her career direction. The Equity in Education Scholarship she has earned from Sanford will help her get there.

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Strong has already made an impact in Bemidji with her work as part of a Sanford mobile crisis team that assesses adults and children who are struggling with mental health issues.

Often she is asked to counsel people who are contemplating suicide, but the team can involve other issues as well.

“It might be really bad depression or really bad anxiety or they feel like they have nowhere else to go and they go to the ED (emergency department) or they call us on the crisis line,” Strong said. “We can visit with them in the ED or we visit with them at our office or at their homes — whatever is appropriate.”

The Sanford Health Equity in Education Scholarship that Strong is using to help pay tuition is a targeted financial scholarship program aiding underrepresented and traditionally underserved populations seeking higher education.

Award recipients must demonstrate exceptional character and leadership in furthering their own progress and in enriching the lives of others, especially in service, academics, and community involvement and impact.

In a sense, Strong has done that by providing counsel that addresses the challenge of access and urgency in relation to behavioral health.

The barriers can be physical — patients may not be able to travel — but circumstances can also involve a reluctance to seek out counsel if it means meeting with someone at an office.

In either case, Strong and her colleagues offer care that might not be there otherwise.

“I really like knowing at Sanford that the way we address behavioral health is growing,” Strong said. “There is more recognition and willingness to understand its importance.”

As that journey continues, Strong wants to be there.

“It can be frustrating and stressful but it’s very worthwhile,” she said. “I’m fortunate to have a really good team of co-workers and supervisors who support each other very well.”

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Posted In Behavioral Health, Bemidji, Inclusion at Sanford, Leadership in Health Care, Sanford Stories, Scholarships and Sponsorships