Cuba natives team up to promote mental health

    Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri (MHA-EM) is marking its 75th anniversary on October 3 and two Cuba High School alums are helping to bring the organization’s outreach to Crawford County. As part of a broad celebration, there will be an event in Cuba and an online auction featuring three items being donated from two businesses and a resident of Steelville.


    Anne Shaw Heinrich grew up in Cuba. She is the daughter of Pat and Romona Shaw and is the vice president of development at MHA-EM, a nonprofit organization based in St. Louis that provides services to people living with serious mental illness. The organization also offers a wealth of resources and advocacy efforts.
    “We're celebrating our 75th Anniversary this year but are having to do it in a covid-adaptive way,” said Heinrich, whose journey to become a mental health advocate is quite personal.
    Heinrich and her husband live in Kirkwood and have three children. Their 22-year-old son was diagnosed with schizophrenia about four years ago. After more than 30 years working for nonprofit organizations and in communications, Heinrich felt called to raise awareness about mental health.
    “The call to be working in the mental health space evolved from a whisper to a roar, and I took the plunge last October,” said Heinrich. That’s when she began working for MHA-EM.
    "When someone you love is impacted so profoundly with mental illness, the need to speak out against stigma and lack of understanding is critical. We need to be able to talk openly about mental health issues in much the same way we would about physical health conditions,” Heinrich said. “Our son is one of the most courageous young men I've ever known and his resilience is what inspires me to do this work. The theme for our event this year is 'Who is your why?' When I ask myself that question, the answer is pretty easy: my son. But I know many more families who have someone in mind when they think about mental health."
    While Heinrich was working to begin a mental health podcast for MHA-EM, her best friend—Jenny Gross, also of Cuba—reintroduced her to Jason Medows, another Cuba native.
    “(Jason) was born when I was in high school,” said Heinrich, “but Jason and I have really connected. He has been guiding me through the podcast process. He’s a pro, having launched a very successful podcast of his own called ‘Ag State of Mind.’ It’s excellent, and Jason has really created a critical voice for mental health in rural communities and beyond.”

Jason Medows

    Medows also has a website, agstateofmind.com. Heinrich has also had Medows contribute a post at her blog which can be read at: https://www.mha-em.org/our-blog/330-real-men-talk-about-mental-health. You can read one of Heinrich’s posts at: https://www.mha-em.org/our-blog/21-how-social-media-can-be-great-support-for-caregivers.
    Medows, who is the son of Charlie and Pat Medows, lives in the Cuba area. He is a pharmacist and has worked at Phelps Health in Rolla for about 10 years. You can view his podcasts at: https://globalagnetwork.com/ag-state-of-mind-with-jason-medows.
    “I began the blog and podcast in July 2019 as lots of farmers, myself included, were experiencing a lot of stress due to the current agriculture market,” Medows said. “Fast forward to this past spring and the stresses have been multiplied due to the pandemic, trade uncertainty, supply chain disruptions, and weather events.”
    Medows believes his podcast came to be by “divine intervention as it was exactly what the ag world needed.” It has been listened to throughout the continental United States and Canada as well as countries throughout Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe. It had close to 25,000 downloads in its first year.
    “Mental health is not always popular to talk about, especially among the rural population,” said Medows, “but it takes someone with a bit of humility, bravery, and strength to address these issues head on and share their own experience.”
    “Jason has been very generous and will also be featured with just part of his inspiring mental health message in a promotional video we're doing for celebrating MHA-EM's 75th anniversary,” said Heinrich.
    The video will be used to tell Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri’s story at more than smaller events and gatherings throughout the region on Saturday, October 3. On that day, hosts will be opening their homes to small gatherings, including some Zoom calls, to help raise funds for MHA-EM. There will even be an event in Cuba, hosted by Jenny and Willa Gross.
    Several items from Crawford County will also be part of an online auction being held during the benefit. People can bid on a Zoom call from Santa, featuring Steelville Santa John Craig, a two-night stay at Milt’s place donated by Miles Yeary of Steelville, and a stay at Huzzah Valley Campground. You can view items and bid at: https://e.givesmart.com/events/hHZ/.
    For more information about Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri, visit www.mha-em.org.