Community members learned first-hand the impact CrossWinds Counseling & Wellness makes in its seven-county service area Thursday morning.

Powerful testimonials by CrossWinds clients highlighted the Celebrate CrossWinds breakfast at Webb Hall on the campus of Emporia State University. Three pre-recorded videos and one live speech featured people from all walks of life who hit rock bottom, but got back up with the help they received at CrossWinds.

The stories of each person’s CrossWinds journey emphasized the importance of mental health and how getting help can turn someone’s life around.

One of the stories came from an Emporia teenager who said, before getting help, he felt “broken” and “so alone.”

“All of the pride and the joy I had in my life had suddenly changed,” he said.

He turned to alcohol, drugs and self-harm as ways to cope with his pain. Finally, when his mother found him crying while on the phone, he asked for help.

He received aid at CrossWinds and said his life has improved in several ways since he began working on his mental health.

“I can smile without hiding behind a mask,” he said.

“Thank you, CrossWinds, for helping me find the person I am today; for helping me find my true self.”

Another young person said she had lived with depression for as long as she could remember, but a breakup with a long-term boyfriend pushed her into a deeper, downward spiral. She didn’t get out of bed and had law enforcement show up at her home for welfare checks multiple times. She was hospitalized more than once, and at one point tried to overdose on her medications.

After agreeing to get help at CrossWinds, she said her life has improved in a big way.

“I look forward to waking up every day,” she said.

The third video testimony featured a couple from Emporia whose son threw tantrums and lashed out in angry fits. The couple didn’t know what they could do to help him, and at one point feared the stress was going to put a strain on their marriage.

Eventually, they took him to CrossWinds, where he was able to learn coping skills and they were able to learn how to better handle his outbursts.

“He needed help and someone to talk to,” the wife said. “We needed help, too.”

Finally, in a live testimonial, an Emporia man said he was homeless, suicidal and dealing with alcoholism before he found CrossWinds. His life changed when he met a case manager named Steve, who “treated me with dignity and respect that I’d never felt before.”

He was able to quit drinking, go back to school and is now employed by CrossWinds. He hasn’t had a drink in seven years.

CrossWinds CEO Amanda Cunningham said, as community members, it’s important to hear those stories, to be aware of the resources available and how they can help family members, friends, neighbors and loved ones.

“We know the impact each of you can have on those around you,” she told the hundreds of people in attendance. “We make a difference in people’s lives every day.”

CrossWinds serves about 5,000 people in its seven-county service area. It works in each of the 17 school districts in that region and has helped 1,200 children get the help they need without missing a lot of school or forcing parents to miss work. In 2019 alone, it has provided 900 televideo counseling sessions and used technology to help 600 more patients.

There are 80,000 people living in CrossWinds’ service area. Studies show 1 in 5 people could benefit from getting some sort of help with their mental health. Cunningham said that means there is still a long way to go in getting everyone the intervention they need.

The event also served as a fundraiser for the organization, and Cunningham said that gap highlights the importance of helping CrossWinds financially. She said currently each clinician has about 120 patients, and some psychiatrists see 20 patients per day.

“When we fill that gap it means we have fewer suicides,” she said. “We have fewer people in our jails or in emergency rooms because they didn’t know where else to turn.”

To learn more about how to donate to CrossWinds, visit crosswindsks.org/donate.

“All of us have been touched by mental health issues in one way or another,” CrossWinds board member Karen Reeves said. “Our challenge is to educate the public on the resources we have available and how to get help.”

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