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May is National Mental Health Month

Updated: May 20

NC3 interview with Denise Russo-Starback, LMSW, Clinical Services Director at Newaygo County Mental Health.

Why do we need a month to talk about mental health?

Mental health is important now more than ever - it is crucial to recognize this even more so now because of the pandemic and all the changes that have occurred in our world over the past year and a half. Approximately one in five adults live with a mental illness. So many people have experienced isolation, loss of employment, struggles meeting basic needs, experienced physical as well as mental health concerns, and the list goes on and on. The mental health profession has seen an increase in substance abuse issues, as well as occurrences of domestic violence and issues with social isolation due to the pandemic and the recommended guidelines and practices. There has also been some frustration for people trying to access help when face to face appointments were limited or not permitted at all. People have been dealing with barriers such as a lack of internet or phone service, and/or a lack of confidence or not being technically savvy with experience in Zoom or Microsoft Teams to attend appointments. We recognize that it has been difficult and want to remind people in our community of the resources available to them.


What are examples of mental health issues?

Mental health issues can look differently depending on the individual. Issues can include:

  • Struggling with anxiety, sadness, poor concentration, and/or depression that doesn’t appear to be getting better or worsening over a period of time.

  • Starting or increased use of alcohol or other substances to cope.

  • Struggling to make ends meet - issues with housing, employment, relationships, daily living skills, etc. and the feelings of hopelessness and becoming withdrawn that may intensify with these issues.

Where can residents turn if dealing with mental health issues?

We encourage people to reach out to their support system or people that you trust. This could include family members, friends, teachers, or professional agencies you are already involved with. If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, there is help and hope.


Newaygo County Mental Health has a 24/7 phone number access through our regular phone numbers. We also offer phone and/or walk-in appointments during business hours for anyone in crisis or interested in starting mental health services.


Residents can also call 2-1-1 if they need some ideas on how and where to access resources in our community.


The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) can also provide 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress and provide prevention and crisis resources.

Why is there a stigma surrounding mental health?

There remains an unfortunate stigma around the topic of mental health. Although more people are starting to recognize and talk about mental health issues, there remains a lack of understanding from the larger community about what this actually means. Unfortunately negative attitudes and beliefs toward people who have a mental health concern are common. Different cultures, beliefs and personal experiences can sometimes impact this. Mental illness is just that...an illness like any other. You are not an illness! Reaching out for support is not a sign of personal weakness. It does not make you less of a person to need help. Sometimes it can be hard to handle everything life throws at us. It is OK to seek out that additional support. Education is the key. Seek to understand rather than judge. Learn as much as you can about mental health. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation and ask questions. Let’s try to normalize talking about mental health. Judgments almost always come from fear and a lack of understanding. Seeking support, accepting your condition and learning what you can do to treat it as well as helping to educate others can make a huge impact.


What can a person expect if they contact Newaygo County Mental Health?

If you are experiencing a mental health concern or in crisis and should call or walk in for help, you will be immediately greeted by a CMH support staff, and depending on your situation, will be directed to the appropriate clinical staff for assistance. This trained clinical staff will talk with you about your concerns and needs. This clinician may also help to link you with other appropriate resources in the community as needed. An intake assessment can be scheduled to help best determine the most appropriate level of care and service needs.


Anyone can contact Newaygo County Mental Health (NCMH) - For example: Self referrals, a family member or friend seeking information, help and services for their loved one, colleagues from other organizations connect with us and if they have questions or would like to make a referral for someone they may be working with, etc. Newaygo County Mental Health is a great resource for our community.


What are all of the services that Newaygo County Mental Health provides?

Some of the services provided include: 24-hour Emergency Services access, Crisis Intervention, Screening for Psychiatric Hospitalization for those persons having Medicaid and or no insurance coverage, Diagnosis, Assessment and Referral, Individual and Family Therapy, Group Therapy, Case Management Services, Substance Abuse Treatment, Medication Assessment/Psychiatric Services, Peer Support Services, Jail Services, Home Based Services for youth and families, Infant Mental Health Services, Autism Program-Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), Respite, Community Living Supports, etc. Services are available to youth and adults. This list is not all inclusive of services offered by NCMH. Service needs are identified during the individual assessment process and referrals to the appropriate level of care are made based on the assessment.


How is Newaygo County Mental Health working collaboratively with other agencies or groups?

We have many collaborative efforts with other agencies as of current. Some of these include:

  • Peer support and certified recovery coach placed in the emergency department at Gerber Hospital in Fremont

  • Youth Team Therapists are located in several of the school districts under the Caring for Students Grant (C4S grant) for easier accessibility.

  • NCMH staff work closely with the local DHHS including CPS and Foster Care Programs.

  • LiveWell Coalition is working on a county-wide mental health resources campaign.

  • Education of community partners with Certified Youth and Adult Mental Health First Aid Instructors

  • Partnering with Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial on physical health/wellness community events

  • Behavioral Health integration and consultation to physicians, initiatives with Spectrum

Where can we turn for other resources?

Newaygo County residents, look for guest articles in Near North Now this month. Articles cover different mental health topics written by our local experts and NCMH staff, as May is Mental Health Month!


Newaygo County Mental Health (231)-689-3770 or toll free 1-800-968-7330


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255


Call 2-1-1 to access local resources


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