Storyteller Series: Mental Health Awareness – Karla Johnson

Why is it so hard to talk about mental health? I’ve wanted to share my story for a few weeks now but have had a horrible time finding a way I’m comfortable in approaching it! If it’s hard for me, as I purposely want to address this—it’s no wonder we are all reluctant to talk about, share, or address our emotional health openly.

Health: physical health, spiritual health, emotional health. Do you have a broken arm? Go to a doctor! Lower back problems? See a chiropractor. An impacted tooth? A dentist of course!! A broken heart? Suck it up and deal with it!!

Why do we treat our emotional state as something that isn’t worthy of professional help when we are in crisis or suffering? Does a lack of physical proof negate our need for relief? Apparently, it does, and has since the beginning of time. Fortunately, a new generation of leaders has begun to address emotional health openly—and I’d like to join them by sharing my story.

Like many of you, I haven’t had any broken bones, but over the years I’ve suffered from a broken heart and loss. (Loss of parents, friendships, job, and career). The grief and anxiety I experienced through all of these life changes was more than I could handle alone. I’ve needed help not once, but several times throughout my life!

There was one time when I was really suffering personally and professionally, and I didn’t realize how bad it was. I was in a very dark place, and openly shared my feelings with my CEO!! (You may want to check your relationship with your boss before you take this step!!) Before I knew it she was on the phone and had scheduled an appointment for me with a psychiatrist that afternoon. Thank goodness for her quick support and action. It was as if she came upon an accident scene and immediately administered medical assistance. My emotional state was in crisis. I needed her and she was there. But what if? What if she didn’t take those immediate steps? I guess I’ll never know, but I’m so thankful she did.

Those steps are important. Those steps will provide relief. Those steps can save a life.

These are challenging times. No matter what our age, the world has turned upside down. It’s important that we, as OST professionals are ready to take those steps for ourselves, our kids and colleagues. If you, or someone you know is in emotional crisis, take those steps, or call 211 for help. Don’t hesitate. Stop the bleeding today!


Karla Johnson

Grant Writer


If you need help finding support, visit or call 211 now.

Visit 211 Helpline   


Storyteller Series: Mental Health Awareness – Lisa Verdin

Storyteller Series: Mental Health Awareness – Lisa Verdin

I’ve never thought of myself as an actor. I seek out genuine relationships and appreciate authenticity in others. I have always felt like those are the qualities others can count on receiving from me…and mostly that’s true. I have struggled with anxiety most of my...

Mizzen by Mott – June

Mizzen by Mott – June

The Mizzen By Mott app delivers inspiring and engaging activities that spark learning in young people. Supported by the Mott Foundation, Mizzen is available at no cost to afterschool professionals! Encourage partners to download the Mizzen By Mott app to access STEM ...

The South Dakota Afterschool Network works to better our state and its communities by connecting providers, parents and policymakers with proven tools and resources to increase the quality of and access to out-of-school time programming for K-12 children and youth.

Afterschool is a lifeline that keeps youth safe, helps kids learn and grow, and provides parents the ability to work without worry. While South Dakota is home to more than 300 afterschool programs, the demand for programs exceeds available spaces. In fact, 1 in 3 South Dakota children (34 percent) who are not in an afterschool program would be enrolled if it were available. That’s more than 42,000 children who are missing out on opportunities to participate in programming that supports their development academically, socially and economically.

Afterschool can provide valuable opportunities for students to explore STEM, and we are here to help your program succeed in STEM Learning! From webinars and trainings to our signature TMC Trailers that bring turnkey STEM activities to your doorstep, our diverse collection of resources meets you and your students where you are and provides the support you need to deliver quality programming to your students at any age. 

The South Dakota Afterschool Network wanted to create a mapping tool to better understand the landscape of afterschool and summer programs available for children and families. From the initial launch of the new mapping tool, we have identified some startling findings.