Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation emphasizes kindness, empathy and awareness
By Marianne Leek
Together we make a difference—a simple, yet profound sentiment underscoring the interdependence of all human beings. The Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that funds a wide range of programs supporting health and access to health care. They recognize that the health and overall well-being of a community and its members depend on people coming together to “lift and sustain the overall health and well-being of everyone who works and plays in our treasured mountain communities.” The Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation actively works to connect those in need to sustainable, accessible, and affordable health care, regardless of ability to pay.
Blue Ridge Health-Highlands Cashiers, located in the Jane Woodruff Clinic on the Highlands-Cashiers Hospital campus, is the cornerstone investment of the Health Foundation. With mental health assistance such a need in the community, the Health Foundation is extremely excited about the new Behavioral Health and Substance Abuse Counselor who has joined the clinic. While Blue Ridge Health-Highlands Cashiers is the cornerstone investment, the Health Foundation’s philanthropy doesn’t stop there. They recently funded a grant to support a position for a bi-lingual counselor for the Plateau Behavioral Health Collaborative, a partnership of The Counseling Center of Highlands, the Community Care Clinic of Highlands, and the International Friendship Center. In addition, they provided generous grant funding for a recreational therapist who works directly with the Boys and Girls Club of the Plateau.
Our physical and mental health and well-being remain intricately connected; simply put, how we look and feel on the outside inevitably affects how we feel on the inside. Whether exacerbated by the effects of a recent global pandemic, the volatility of our current economy, or the vulnerability of individuals struggling to meet the basic needs of their families, the past few years have taken a toll on our mental and physical health, and the statistics can be discouraging.
In "The State of Mental Health in America,” an annual report from Mental Health America, 20.78% of adults in the U.S. are dealing with some form of mental illness. In North Carolina, specifically, the rate is 19.8%. According to US News and World Report, 15.4% of adults in Macon County and 15.8% of adults in Jackson County live with frequent mental distress.
Josh Bryson, marketing specialist for the Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation elaborated, “At a time when so many people of all ages are experiencing some type of mental health concern, Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation is committed to raising awareness, reducing the stigma, and bolstering resources to address growing needs across the communities we serve. The Health Foundation seeks to support and promote mental health-related programs and services from prevention to treatment to recovery.”
Bryson elaborated on some ways that the Foundation has recently supported mental health and awareness, “We host events, such as ‘Lessons from a Secret Warrior with Coach Joanne P. McCallie,’ that open conversations and reduce the stigma around mental health and wellness.” He also explained that through generous donations to the Foundation, they have been able to fund over 90 grants to over 70 different organizations totaling nearly $9 million in grant commitments.
During the month of May, which is Mental Health Awareness month, the Health Foundation will be partnering with the Counseling Center of Highlands on a “BEE Kind” initiative. When asked about this, Bryson replied, “Opening conversations and reducing stigmas around mental health really begins with kindness. In partnership with the Counseling Center, we decided to adopt the theme BEE KIND. We are going to use the symbolism of the bee and the tagline ‘Mental health awareness starts with kindness’ as our emphasis. The more kind, empathetic, and curious our community can become, the better we all will be for it.”
He explained that both The Health Foundation and The Counseling Center will be collaborating with a number of local organizations throughout the month of May to provide enriching and engaging activities for people of all ages. These activities are intended “to raise our collective awareness around mental and behavioral health.” The Rotary Club of Highlands will be co-sponsoring a Bingo Night on May 11 at the Highlands Community Building. The Highlands Biological Station will host programs that encourage people to explore the connection between spending time outdoors and improved mental and physical health. The Bascom is planning to incorporate the “BEE Kind” theme and will feature events highlighting the positive effects of art on mental health. Highlands School’s art students will be making posters that “provide an artist’s statement sharing what mental health means to them.” Other local organizations such as the Hudson Library, Boys and Girls Club of the Plateau, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters will also partner on “BEE Kind” programs and events. In addition, the Foundation and Counseling Center will host a “Support Sober” tent at the Bear Shadow Music Festival. The hope of the Health Foundation and the Counseling Center is that this BEE Kind initiative, with its emphasis on kindness, empathy, and awareness, continues throughout the year, sustaining their plateau communities.
Bryson expressed appreciation on behalf of the Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation to their generous donors for recognizing and supporting the Foundation’s continued commitment to investing in programs focused on improving health and well-being across the plateau. He added, “The Health Foundation is dedicated to continuing this work and creating lasting and impactful solutions. We have big goals, and we need your help to reach them. Join us as we lift health and well-being together.”
Together we LIFT—lead, innovate, fund, together. The mission of the Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation is to support health and well-being throughout our communities. We all have a responsibility to care for and BEE Kind to one another. It’s really that simple, and it’s where community mental health and healing begin.