Miss St. Croix Valley visits Sumner with message of good mental health

Published 4:00 pm Wednesday, March 20, 2024

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Stress, anxiety and more are a part of everyday life — and that’s okay.

That was part of the message delivered by Miss St. Croix Valley Natalie Demos during a visit to a third grade classroom at Sumner Elementary Wednesday morning. The other part of Wednesday’s message: finding healthy and safe ways to deal with those feelings.

“Mental health has such a huge stigma around it, unfortunately,” Demos said. “Because of that, there are so many people who are suffering. Making sure I’m having a presence in at least one school in my seven counties helps to get that message out and make sure those kids don’t feel alone.”

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Demos’ region covers the east metro areas, but with roots in Albert Lea it allows her the opportunity to stretch her message to southern Minnesota through her platform of “Let’s Talk About It,” which advocates for normalized discussions of mental health.

In order to spread her message, Demos draws on her own background as she has been diagnosed with a pair of mental illness disorders: Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder.

Explaining that she was hospitalized for these disorders, Demos is open about her own struggles and that it pushed her to do more..

“Back in 2018, I was hospitalized for it so that really catalyzed the need for change in the mental health community,” she said. “That’s where ‘Let’s Talk About It was born.’”

During her visit, Demos talked with students about stress and emotions and led them through a pair of activities including the decoration of their own stress balls, which were handed out by Demos.

Sumner Principal Jill Rollie said that visits by people such as Demos help reinforce the idea that everybody can have bad days and that it’s how we cope with these feelings that’s importantl.

“I think any time we can offer strategies and suggestions in doing that and helping students feel okay about feeling angry or feeling sad — I think that’s always great messaging,” Rollie said. “There are ways we can manage feelings safely.”

Rollie added that that’s something the school works on daily as part of Sumner’s overall plans.

“Everybody has moments in time when we’re feeling sad or angry and that they’re not alone and that there are ways to manage those feelings,” she said. “I think that’s always really healthy to know that’s normal.”

Demos was crowned Miss St. Croix Valley in September of last year and will compete in the Miss Minnesota Pageant June 19-21 at Treasure Island Resort and Casino near Red Wing.

Winning Miss St. Croix Valley was her third title within the Miss America organization since competing in her first local competition in 2021 at the age of 22.