The following story originally ran on WRTV.com.
CARMEL — Ben’s Ranch Foundation hosted its annual Barn Bash at Conner Prairie on Sunday. The event focused on mental health awareness and healing in the heartland.
Ben’s Ranch Foundation operates and supports programs designed to connect teens who have mental health challenges to employment opportunities on farms, ranches, stables and therapeutic riding facilities.
The event was packed with a variety of activities, including yard games, axe throwing, a silent auction and even hot air balloon rides.
The activities were followed by a panel discussion called “Teen Mental Health and Our Schools.”
The panel included mental health professionals, including Joan Reed, Amanda Votaw, Dr. David Mundy and Ashley Stangland.
The panel covered multiple different topics, including how both parents and educators can help not only support but get students the mental health help they need.
“While we’re talking more about mental health, we’re still not talking about the actual steps to get that help,” Votaw said during the panel. “The stigma is getting better. Talking about it makes people more willing to look for that help.”
The panel discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic was able to shine light on mental health issues and take away the negative stigma that surrounded the topic.
“One of the positives about the pandemic is that it got people talking about anxiety, depression and mental health. I see younger people in my workplace who are talking about their issues, and I think now the climate is good for having those conversations,” Reed said.
The panel also urged attendees to continue to use their voices and reach out to people who may be in need of a helping hand.
“We need to reach everyone in the ways they need to be reached. Mental health is no longer a ‘hush hush’ thing. Everyone can have mental health issues. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how much money you have,” Reed said. “Now, if we just had the correct resources, we’d be in pretty good shape.”