EAGLE RIVER — Keweenaw County Sheriff Curt Pennala hosted a mental health awareness presentation at the Keweenaw County Courthouse last Thursday that addressed several topics and included more than a dozen panelists from as many local organizations, as well as law enforcement agencies.
The presentation stemmed from a social media post on the page of the Keweenaw County Sheriff’s Office in response to a young individual having attempted suicide in the county during the first week of May. The panel met to discuss mental health services available, as well as what is missing.
Michelle Morgan, former medical director at Copper Country Mental Health (now retired), was the key speaker at the event, and she said she became involved in the event after she read the social media post.
Morgan said one of the things that struck her was the content responses to the social media post.
She began by saying that her hope “to try to help people understand what resources are available to people who have suicidal thoughts or impulses, and also to begin the discussion on what else the community might be able to do to strengthen those resources.
She said there is a common perception, not only in the public but also among treatment providers, that the mental health system that we have is broken, that it is not meeting the needs of people, that there is something wrong, that somebody needs to do something.
The purpose of the presentation, she said, is to provide the public with information on what “the system” is, how it works — as well as the ways it does not.
Everyone in the community has concerns about those who are suffering from mental illness, depression, anxiety, suicidal thinking, substance use, adding that all of those things “effect us all,” she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic over the past year, as well as rules attached to it by various state governments, health agencies, and its becoming a political ground, have had significant impacts in mental health across the United States, and the western Upper Peninsula has been no exception to that. Significant increases in stress, depression, and other issues have made people much more aware of the necessity of mental health treatment, said Morgan.
“As the pandemic took over,” she said, “there were high levels of anxiety about the pandemic, job loss, social isolation, normal routines got disrupted — all of this led to an increase in people experiencing depression, anxiety and suicidal thinking.”
The purpose of the presentation therefore, is to discuss a broad range of topics, ranging from stopping stigma, to services available for those in need of mental health treatment, and what the community can do.
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