Mental health has been the topic of much discussion across the country with celebrities sharing their own mental health stories, and organizations like NAMI (The National Alliance on Mental Illness) holding awareness campaigns.

Local counselor Scott Jacobs said the actual need for mental health care hasn't changed much over the past 40 years, though he believes awareness about mental health issues is growing locally and nationally.

"I think there's been a growing awareness," said Jacobs. "Everything from Oprah to whoever ... there's just more awareness in the mainstream media, and hopefully that is also translating to people saying well, yeah I've got this stuff going on that I can go talk about, and it's okay."

Jacobs said people are willing to seek treatment for physical ailments, but he hopes growing awareness will make people more willing to seek help for mental health care as well.

In River Falls, that need for more mental health care options was recognized by a group of area people a few years ago. They came together to form the Free Counseling Center, to provide options for mental health care to people who do not have insurance.

Now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the Free Counseling Center (FCC) serves people without insurance in Pierce and St. Croix counties. Several area mental health professionals work with FCC to provide mental health care.

Jacobs said most of those using FCC are usually seeking help for issues like anxiety, depression, relationship struggles, parenting issues, loss, trauma and more.

Jacobs said FCC counselors use a "brief, solutions-based model." Typically, clients have 3-5 sessions with a counselor through FCC.

"We try to focus on what are the presenting problems? How can we best address them in a short period of time? How can we help people develop strategies to help them?"

For example, Jacobs said, if a person is seeking help for anxiety, an FCC counselor might help them learn some relaxation or breathing techniques.

FCC also tries to help connect people with resources that might help them. For example, if a person is dealing with a housing issue, FCC could help connect them with the local Housing Authority. Or if a person is dealing with an addiction, FCC work to help them connect with additional addiction resources.

FCC counselors mostly meet clients in space provided by the River Falls First Congregational United Church of Christ.

Counselors are typically available the first and third Thursday of each month. Some counselors can offer appointments in their private offices, by appointment.

Contact

Those interested in FCC's services, volunteer professionals interested in working with FCC to provide services, and those interested in donating or offering other support can contact FCC at its website freecounselingcenter.org, or at 715-481-3839.

FCC serves those how have no insurance, or whose insurance does not cover mental health care.

Jacobs said FCC also welcomes donations.