Navigating Mental Health: How Active Generations Supports Caregivers in the Sioux Empire

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, Sioux Empire United Way is excited to introduce a new series for the month of May! Through our Navigating Mental Health features, we hope to highlight the impactful work of our partner agencies actively supporting and promoting mental health services and resources throughout the Sioux Empire!

In this installment, we will be spotlighting CAREgivers by Active Generations. A free service for anyone seeking resources to care for their loved ones and for themselves. They hope to be a single source for information, assistance, resources, education and support. And we're grateful to have had the chance to chat with their Director Carmen Spurling.

Join us as we explore their program's impact, the changing needs of the community, and their hopes for the future of mental health in the Sioux Empire!


CAREgivers Case Management Logo Through Active Generations


Q&A with Active Generations

How does your Caregiver Case Management program actively support the mental health needs within the Sioux Empire community? 

We strive to support family caregivers with their mental health needs by offering support groups, 1:1 support, and coaching along the journey of caregiving. Oftentimes they do not have anyone they can talk openly about the struggles they face without judgment from family or loved ones. We offer a safe space to express their fears, concerns, and challenges while connecting them to other resources in the community.


What demographics would you say this program typically serves? 

We serve anyone who is providing unpaid care to an adult with a chronic illness (i.e., dementia, Parkinson’s, ALS, etc).


Have you seen any significant change in your program or the needs of the community since the pandemic? 

The need for connection to others in a similar situation is even more important now than it was prior to the pandemic; the feeling of isolation is common in caregivers, and the pandemic only made that worse. Once caregivers finally reach out to accept help, they are relieved to find others who can relate to them and understand what they experience without having to explain themselves.  


What is one thing you wish people were more aware of when it comes to mental health? 

First, that mental health is so much more than just “talking to a counselor”; finding anything that helps refill your spiritual/mental cup is critical for your personal health. It is not a luxury to do something you enjoy – it is a necessity!


A young female caregiver holding hands with a senior adult.


What would you like to share about the stigma behind receiving mental health services? 

People who receive mental health services are no different than those who go to a doctor for cancer treatment, physical therapy, or even well-care visits; we do not look differently on those who are striving to improve (or maintain) their physical health. You have to take care of ALL of your body, including your brain and mental health; whether you do so as a preventative measure or for ongoing treatment, being tuned into what your body needs is essential.


What do you hope the future of mental health looks like in the Sioux Empire? 

I would love to see more resources available to all demographics that not only encourage treatment but prevention & intervention options as well.


What are key mental health resources & services that you recommend to the individuals you serve? 

When people approach the Case Management program, they do not see it as a “mental health resource” per se, but an educational support program. Because of this, we are able to provide services without the stigma that unfortunately surrounds so many other programs & services. If we recognize that our caregivers need more support than we are qualified to provide, we can refer them to various providers in their community or to their primary care physician to receive suggestions within their network. Since we have built a rapport with them, it takes some of the stigma and pressure off to accept services.


What final words do you have for our readers? 

The only way we can overcome the stigma of mental health is if everyone does their part to normalize people seeking assistance and treatment. Please reach out or find a place that feels comfortable for you; it is not a “one size fits all” support system.


Interested in learning more about our funded agencies & the work they're doing across the Sioux Empire, click here!