Martial Arts Principles for Personal Safety

Mary Brandl, of BPS Communications Workshops came to visit Touchstone in May to give staff and clients a lesson in personal safety and self-defense. With a 4th degree black belt in Karate, Mary uses principals from martial arts to teach people of all abilities practical measures they can take to potentially avoid a physical threat.

Mary captivated the room with stories, tips and exercises to help everyone feel stronger, more confident and able to handle difficult situations they may encounter. Touchstone clients and staff were glad to have had the opportunity to meet Mary and learn about body language, using a strong voice and not being embarrassed to move or run if you feel strange about a situation. One client said “It was interesting, I am glad to know there are things I can do to avoid an attack.”

Martial Arts Principles for Personal Safety

Distance: If you don’t feel comfortable, stay outside of handshake distance.

Body Position: Can you easily take a deep breath where you are standing?

Feet apart – space between them both front-to-back and side-to-side

Knees unlocked – weight half on each leg

Align ears over shoulders, shoulders over hips and stand confidently

Voice: Sound strong whether yelling or talking by using your stomach muscles

Looking: Watch the area between the person’s forehead and shoulders instead of looking into their eyes

© Copyright 2011, Mary Brandl, used with permission


Mary Brandl is an instructor and consultant with Minneapolis Community Crime Prevention Program, University of Minnesota Physical Education Department, Hennepin County Sexual Violence Center, and a wide variety of groups and organizations. She has worked with various crime victim services for more than 30 years and has presented workshops throughout the state, nationally and in Canada. She is a 4th degree black belt with Midwest Karate Association and the co-author and co-creator of the book and DVD Scenarios in Self Defense.

Health Coaching: A Path to Improved Wellness

Thanks to the Medica Foundation, Touchstone clients who want to make positive, healthy lifestyle changes now have help in reaching their personal wellness goals. The Wellness Initiative, funded by the Medica Foundation, provides a health assessment and 3-6 individual meetings with a certified health coach. These services can serve as a launching point for clients to begin to address their overall health.

Health coaching can help people make healthy changes by providing the knowledge, skills, and confidence to help them transform goals into action. A health coach evaluates strengths, offers suggestions and provides positive feedback to help the client move through negative self-talk or other obstacles that can prevent progress. Coaching can help clients manage the stress of living with a chronic condition with stress management and learning mind body skills to relax and calm anxiety.

“Health coaching is practiced from a holistic perspective recognizing the relationship between the mind, body, and spirit.” says Lorna Glick, Integrative Health Coach. “The goals of the sessions are determined by the client, which empowers them to take an active role in improving their health. It has been wonderful to work at Touchstone because they value the importance of using a holistic approach to help people on their journey towards healing.”

We have seen a positive response to the program so far – 35 people have completed their health assessment, 26 have had at least one session and 12 have participated in two-four coaching sessions. These clients have been addressing weight loss, nutrition, and sleep hygiene which can have a positive impact on their overall health as well as their mental health.

May is Mental Health Month

As President Obama declared on April 28, May is National Mental Health month and we would like to invite you to get involved in one of the many activities and campaigns going on in May!

Here are just some of the things you could do:

According to NAMI, “Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.” Mental Health Month offers the opportunity to increase awareness and find out what we all can do when someone needs help.

With coverage under the Affordable Care Act and MNSure, more low-income Minnesotans have access to mental health services – but there’s still a gap. With the help of our donors, Touchstone Mental Health fills that gap for our clients who often need more than the covered mental health services. In order to recover we find our clients also need access to safe, stable housing, medical care, education, and the social supports we all need to be well.

So during Mental Health Month 2016, join us is raising awareness about mental health and what it is really like to have a mental illness. If you use social media, share your experiences to increase understanding of how people with mental illness feel with #mentalillnessfeelslike, tell others you are not ashamed with #imnotashamed, and share how you are showing your support with #MHM2016 or #mentalhealthawarenessmonth.

Healthy Snack: No Bake Energy Bites

This healthy snack was introduced to Touchstone during a cooking demo with one of our Health and Wellness dieticians at the Rising Cedar Apartments. Not only are they delicious, but they are made with oats, peanut butter and flax so they also have the nutrients needed to support overall brain health.

Regular cooking demonstrations and taste tests are a great way for Touchstone clients to try new foods and learn about the connections between diet, physical health and mental health. These kinds of activities help our clients understand the kinds of healthy changes they could make and introduce them to the Health and Wellness Services available at Touchstone.

These delicious treats have been a big hit and are really easy to make. Keep these energy bites in the fridge and grab one when you want a sweet, healthy snack.

No Bake Energy Bites

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup ground flax seeds

1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

1/3 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all the ingredients into a bowl. Using your hands, form the mixture into balls about the size of a walnut. You should get about 24 bites from this recipe. Line them up on a cookie sheet and place into the freezer to set. When set, put them into a plastic bag or container and keep in the fridge.

Additional Options

To make bars instead of bites, press the mixture into a rectangular pan and pop in the freezer. When set, cut into rectangles and wrap each bar in plastic wrap and store in the fridge.

Experiment with different ingredients! Maybe instead of crunchy peanut butter, use almond butter with crushed almonds, swap out chocolate chips for dried cherries, and roll the bites in coconut flakes before setting. Another great variation could be to use use smooth peanut butter with crushed banana chips instead of chunky peanut butter. The possibilities are endless.

Smoking Cessation Success

Smoking is a major health concern for people with mental illness, who purchase 30–40% of the cigarettes sold in the United States. These individuals die 14 years earlier than others with a mental illness who don’t smoke.

The good news is 48% of the people now using the State of Minnesota smoking cessation services have a serious mental illness – and they are reaching their goals to stop smoking. Touchstone Mental Health is joining this effort by helping our clients stop smoking.

Thanks to a grant from Clearway MN, one Touchstone employee is now a certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist (TTS). This TTS is training the rest of the program staff in smoking cessation services and best practices to address tobacco use with their clients. Staff are now having conversations with their clients about their tobacco use and smoking cessation. The agency will be using carbon monoxide monitors to help clients see their improved lung capacity as they decrease smoking. We are excited that 86 clients have been talking with staff about tobacco use and five people have asked for smoking cessation services in the first 5 weeks of collecting tobacco information.

Touchstone Mental Health staff participated in the Minnesota Tobacco Summit which resulted in the first statewide initiative to decrease tobacco use for people with mental illness. The plan addresses this health disparity through provider education, policy, and systems changes to decrease tobacco use for people with a mental illness.

Meeting the Mental Health Challenge

Congratulations to Touchstone Mental Health Senior Director of Waivered Services, Michelle Wincell O’Leary, LICSW and University of Minnesota School of Nursing Faculty Barbara Peterson, PhD, who were selected to share their presentation, “Meeting the Mental Health Challenge,” at the Minnesota Department of Human Services Long Term Services and Supports Quality Conference in June 2016 and for a national audience at the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living 67th Annual Convention & Expo in October 2016.

Meeting the Mental Health Challenge describes how Touchstone’s Rising Cedar Apartments, meets the growing demand for comprehensive, person-centered care for people recovering from mental illness. The Touchstone approach has led to high levels of client and staff satisfaction as well as an overall drop in institutional costs that has saved millions in State funds.

Through a Health Services Resource Administration (HRSA) funded grant, Touchstone is partnering with the University of Minnesota to promote inter-professional education and collaborative, team-based care for students in the Academic Health Center (nursing, pharmacy, occupational therapy).  Interns have the opportunity to learn at Rising Cedar, where holistic, integrative services are provided by a multidisciplinary team. The inter-professional educational framework enhances learning for students and Rising Cedar staff which improves communication, develops conflict management skills and increases team responsibility. Touchstone and the University are working together to develop future health care professionals.