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Helping those who really need a helping hand

By Staff | May 28, 2017

Amber Rasmussen, a mental health practitioner, at her desk in the IMS office in Blue Earth.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five adults in the United States struggle with some type of mental illness. Whether it is depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or one of many other mental illnesses, chances are you or someone you know is directly affected by mental illness.

For some people, living with mental illness is manageable. They can wake up, eat, and take care of themselves on their own. But that is not necessarily the case for everyone. That is where a special group comes in: a group which helps those struggling with their mental illnesses to get back on track with their lives and continue to be productive members of their community.

Independent Management Services is a social services group based out of Austin, Minnesota. They have been helping people grow, succeed, live, become empowered, improve their lives, and achieve their potential through a number of social services.

One of those services, specifically, is called adult rehabilitative mental health services, or ARMHS for short.

The Austin-based facility has been spreading its services throughout southern Minnesota, including Faribault County, since 2015.

Amber Rasmussen in front of her Independent Management Services office in downtown Blue Earth. She is usually out helping her clients in the area.

Amber Rasmussen is a mental health practitioner who has been working in Faribault County as an advocate and type of life coach. She and her Martin County partner, Kelsey Oltezke, cover the local area for people who are in need of ARMHS services.

Rasmussen has a two-year associate’s degree in Human Services from Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) and two degrees (sociology and corrections) from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She worked at the Faribault County Sheriff’s Department for five years as a correctional officer, which she says gave her a lot of experience seeing mental illness first hand.

“Unfortunately, jail is one of the first places people go before they get diagnosed with a mental illness,” says Rasmussen.

And since January of 2015, Rasmussen has been working with clients in the ARMHS?program for Independent Management Services.

“I don’t really know why I started the job, all I know is that I wanted to help people. As long as you feel good about what you do every day, that is all that matters, and I enjoy helping people see that realization,” she explains.

The big question is: What are ARMHS?services and who receives these services?

According to Rasmussen, it is a type of community-based mental health assistance. Rasmussen meets with clients one on one at their homes, or somewhere in the community, to help with certain obstacles that may seem easy for some, but can be very difficult for others.

Rasmussen covers everything from household management to life coaching, healthy lifestyles, financial management, socialization, role modeling, overcoming social anxiety, and many other obstacles people with chronic mental illness may have.

“This is a process,” says Rasmussen. “It’s not an easy fix, it’s a service we maintain with our clients maybe for a few months, or a few years. We are very lucky to have a hub in Blue Earth to share our services to a wider range of those suffering from mental illness.”

Rasmussen admits there is a giant stigma surrounding mental health that makes a good number of people suffering from it feel like they cannot or should not get help. And Rasmussen says that is simply not true.

“It’s hard for some to think they need help with some pretty simple tasks, like getting showered and going to the store,” she says. “But the reality is that these struggles are very real, and we are here to help.”

Rasmussen says her clients receive her services through a diagnosis or recommendation from a doctor or psychologist, and must be cleared by the person’s health insurance to receive their services.

Their office, or hub, based in Blue Earth does not have set office hours, and there is good reason for that. As Rasmussen mentioned before, she goes to her clients and not the other way around.

“It is so important for us to be able to go to our clients. We need that flexibility to make sure our clients are getting the most out of our services,” says Rasmussen.

The only time she is in her office is during her healthy lifestyles group, which meets weekly in the office located on North Main Street.

Still confused as to what Rasmussen does?

“We are almost like life coaches. We work with our clients and create positive responses and pair them with good habits,” she says. “While working around those points, we help them with things like basic isolation or struggling to get out into the community.”

From showering to keeping doctor appointments to finding strategies to stay financially stable, Rasmussen helps with all of these things.

“We all have something we struggle with, whether it’s Mondays or feeling uncomfortable in a new group of friends,” she says. “We empathize with our clients to help them see we are not so different, and to help them feel comfortable with that.”

Whether she assists retrieving other resources, assists with symptom management, offers emotional support, or participates in distraction activities, Rasmussen says as long as there is progress being made, that is all that matters.

“One of my favorite success stories was one of my clients got a job. That was a huge deal for that client, and it was for me too. We both wanted to see them succeed. That was a gigantic goal for them to achieve, and for that client in particular, a whole new process began,” Rasmussen says. “Now we had to start learning how to keep that work schedule and maintain all of the hardships faced with starting a new job. But I was so proud they were able to create a resume and get out and do interviews to get a job. It was great to see.”

For as long as someone may need ARMHS?services, Rasmussen says she is available. Her current client load is between 12 and 15 clients, all with their own unique schedules.

And even though she stays busy during the day, she still has plenty of time for her husband, Todd, who works at United South Central as a teacher and coach, and their son Emmett. The Rasmussens are also expecting another baby in a few months.

If you know someone who is struggling with mental illness, Rasmussen says the best thing to do is to be empathetic, and not sympathetic, of your loved one’s needs.

“There are so many wonderful, caring patient-based facilities in Faribault County, including IMS, that can help your loved one with their struggles,” says Rasmussen.

No matter what month of the year, those struggling with mental illness have resources available in Faribault County, including Amber Rasmussen at IMS.