CUSTER COUNTY—Many people have felt the grief of losing loved ones to suicide and a community member has taken it upon himself to bring awareness to mental health and the importance of reaching out for help.
A new website has been created as a resource of mental health providers in Custer County: mhpcc.org.
MHPCC.org is an online directory of persons currently providing counseling services in Custer County and surrounding locations. The website was created thanks to the collaboration of ministry, education, and health care: Broken Bow E-Free Church Pastor Tim Peterson brings ministry and a background as a mental health practitioner to the table while Joey Hajda brings a background in education, and Justin Boutwell is a certified physician assistant in Broken Bow.
Joey Hajda, Pastor Tim Peterson, and Justin Boutwell spoke with KCNI/KBBN on Monday, October 10 to discuss the website, which was created in the last few months and is now up and running.
Hajda contacted Pastor Peterson with concerns that people do not always know where to go for help.
“I loved his heart about it. He was concerned about our community and the numbers of suicide that we have seen throughout our county and area and really just wanting to make sure people know how to access help and [have] a place to go,” Pastor Tim Peterson said.
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 somehow change or to improve accessibility. I knew there were good counselors in our area, mental health providers, but yet maybe there was a stumbling block or a road block which prevented those folks from getting help,” Joey Hajda explained.
The World Health Organization estimates that during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, anxiety and depressive disorders rose more than 25%. Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services describes mental illness as “a physical illness of the brain that causes disturbances in thinking, behavior, energy or emotion that make it difficult to cope with the ordinary demands of life.”
Approximately 19% of adults, 46% of teens, and 13% of children are affected by mental illnesses but only half of those receive treatment.
According to Joey Hajda, a common reason why people do not receive treatment is due to the cost or the stigma surrounding mental health. He encourages people to make the phone 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, caring individuals in the local area. He also says it is imperative to ask questions to friends and family with Hajda adding that preventative care has a ripple effect amongst friends and families.
Justin Boutwell, PA-C emphasized the need to take care of your mind just like you would your heart or lungs.
“I think the biggest thing with mental health is acknowledging it and realizing the importance. My favorite saying is ‘you have to expose it to dispose it.’ We all have our struggles in life. The mind is a part of our body just like the lungs and the heart. When someone has a cough they have no problem going into the doctor and saying ‘I can’t deal with this cough on my own, I need help.’ And the brain with depression and anxiety is no different, ‘I have some mental struggles and I can’t do them on my own and I need help,’” Justin said.