In 2021, the Max Foundation solidified a partnership with Tim Denney of Level 5 Services. Based out of Crookston, Minnesota, Tim is a premium provider of training, facilitation, and consultation services in the upper Midwest region. The Max Foundation and its mission was a perfect fit with Tim’s passion for wellbeing for everybody, suicide prevention, connecting people with services, and trying to change the trajectory of people’s lives when they’re really struggling. The main project our team focused on this year was a Coaches Clinic in Warroad and Roseau aimed to empower one of the most influential groups of adults in a community – coaches.
Having coached at the high school level, Tim understands well the opportunity coaches have to support youth. Coaches have a unique role in being able to recognize and assist students when they’re struggling because they see them so often and for such long periods of time. Endless hours in the coaching-athletic-participation relationship are spent solving the problems of real life. In that relationship, there exists a model of real life that is pressurized and very compact, yet, shows coaches how kids live their lives, how they handle stress, how they handle relationships with other people, and how they handle difficulty.
Unfortunately, because coaches – many who are volunteers – haven’t seen themselves as being in a key role for cultivating good mental health and wellbeing, this unique opportunity to influence kids has never really been leveraged. But the Max Foundation is working to change that.
During the Coaches Clinic in Warroad, Tim worked to build awareness around “upstream suicide prevention.” This prevention involves building a culture that reduces isolation for all students, improves the wellbeing – both emotional and physical – of all students, and provides a more pro social context in which students can live and thrive. “What we’re trying to address are the factors that might bring students to the point of despair,” Tim said, “Isolation, trauma history, unmet expectations in students’ lives. A big one that we don’t think about is anxiety. Many people struggle with that. And, obviously, depression.”
The training also focused on identifying student concerns and needs sooner, how to help those students get to effective services faster, and how to build a more supportive network. Nearly 50 participants, both high school staff and volunteer walk-on coaches were trained – a good number for communities the size of Warroad and Roseau.
While one successful 2-hour session is a good opening shot, Tim underscored the importance of a long-term game strategy to reinforce the skills learned in the clinics and to help coaches troubleshoot over time by sharpening these skills and building better connections to the network of mental health services available to students.
Tim praised the Max Foundation, saying, “One of the things that I really appreciated was how the foundation is focusing on Warroad and Roseau as their first priority. Sometimes as soon as we get on something like this we go big, but we can make a bigger difference sometimes if we stay focused on our primary mission.”
Coupled with the success of the first Coaches Clinic and with the above objective in mind, the Max Foundation and Tim are at work building a brand and marketing strategy to make the Coaches Clinics available for other communities.
Thanks to these pioneering efforts and commitment to breaking down the barriers around mental health, the work the foundation is doing in communities is fast becoming a model for the rest of the region. In Tim’s words, “I wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of 2022 we see a number of community-based initiatives that begin to take on mental health, overall wellbeing, suicide prevention, and access to care. It’s really exciting.”