CUSTER COUNTY—Many people have felt the grief of losing loved ones to suicide and one community member has taken it upon himself to raise awareness about mental health and the importance of seeking help.
A new website has been created as a resource for mental health care providers in Custer County: mhpcc.org.
MHPCC.org is an online directory of people currently providing counseling services in Custer County and surrounding areas. The website was created through the collaboration of ministry, education and health care: Broken Bow E-Free Church pastor Tim Peterson brings ministry and experience as a practitioner of mental health, while Joey Hajda brings a background in education, and Justin Boutwell is a certified medical assistant at Broken Bow.
Joey Hajda, Pastor Tim Peterson, and Justin Boutwell sat down with KCNI/KBBN on Monday, October 10 to discuss the website, which was created over the past few months and is now up and running.
Hajda reached out to Pastor Peterson with concerns that people don’t always know where to go for help.
“I loved his heart about this. He was concerned about our community and the number of suicides we saw in our county and region and really wanted to make sure people knew how to access help and [have] a place to go,” said Pastor Tim Peterson.
Coincidentally appearing on the Get Up and Go Breakfast Show on World Mental Health Day, Hajda has personally experienced the grief of losing friends to suicide and feels called to help others.
“I just felt compelled to change or improve accessibility. I knew there were good counselors in our area, mental health providers, but maybe there was an obstacle or a roadblock that prevented these people from getting help,” explained Joey Hajda .
The World Health Organization estimates that in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, anxiety and depressive disorders increased by more than 25%. Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services describes mental illness as “a physical disease of the brain that causes disturbances in thought, behavior, energy, or emotion that make it difficult to cope with the ordinary demands of life.”
About 19% of adults, 46% of adolescents and 13% of children are affected by mental illnesses, but only half of them receive treatment.
According to Joey Hajda, a common reason people don’t get treatment is the cost or the stigma surrounding mental health. He encourages people to call and ask providers about insurance and payment options.
Pastor Tim Peterson said people want to feel safe without judgment and the new website provides a list – in no particular order – of kind and caring people in the area. He also says asking questions of friends and family is imperative, with Hajda adding that preventive care has a ripple effect among friends and families.
Justin Boutwell, PA-C emphasized the need to take care of your mind as you would your heart or your lungs.
“I think the most important thing with mental health is acknowledging it and realizing its importance. My favorite saying is ‘you have to expose it to get rid of it’. We all have our struggles in the life. The mind is part of our body just like the lungs and the heart. When someone coughs, they have no problem going to the doctor and saying “I can’t handle this cough on my own , I need help”. And the brain with depression and anxiety is no different, “I have mental problems and I can’t do them myself and I need help,” Justin said.
Visit Mhpcc.org for local resources or if you or someone you know is currently in a crisis and needs immediate help, please call the Suicide and Crisis toll-free hotline: 9-8- 8.