By Carol Mills, Executive Director, Newaygo County Mental Health
January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. February is American Heart Month, March is National Kidney Month. There are some awareness issues on the list that I have never heard of. Did you know that World Sleep Day is March 13? That World Hand Hygiene Day is May 5? September also has many awareness days, including Healthy Aging, Food Safety, Pain Awareness, amongst others. As I read through the months, and the lists of awareness issues, I realized that we are used to having a specific month as a time of awareness for many issues and causes.
May is Mental Health Awareness month. During the month of May, we at Newaygo CMH have published several articles on coping with COVID, and other mental health issues that affect the Newaygo County Community. We hope that these articles have provided information and resources about topics that are important to our everyday lives.
Having designated months that commemorate and educate the public about health and social issues is important. These messages serve to remind us that we need to always be aware of health issues that can impact ourselves and our families. These are issues we face 24/7, 365 days a year. Mental Health and Mental Illness doesn’t take a holiday come June. We work every day to ensure that people are able to receive the services they need. Overcoming the stigma of seeking mental health services is a challenge for mental health professionals. Mental Health has come a long way in the past 50 years, but the journey isn’t over. Helping people to understand that seeking assistance with issues isn’t a weakness, or a deficit – it is a strength to understand that we can’t do everything alone. Sometimes we need help and guidance. Newaygo CMH is your public mental health center serving residents of Newaygo County. We provide supports to both children and adults that have mental illness or intellectual and developmental disabilities.
COVID has taught us many lessons, and allowed us to see both the good in people, and the struggles of living in a judgmental society of social media and misinformation. The truth, which always seemed so simple before, is now evasive and hard to find. Our world, which had already changed over the last 20 years due to the surge of electronic information, was rocked again with COVID. So many changes in such a short period of time. What will our new normal be? Change is hard for many people – and this change has been extremely difficult to comprehend and accept. It will forever change how we think about crowds and public events. Shaking hands with strangers. Hugging friends. Family reunions. Class reunions. Concerts. What will they look like? No one knows at this point what the future will look like – only that it will be different.
For those who are struggling to cope, please seek help. There are amazing professionals who can help you find resources and assistance. We are all in this together – please do not be afraid to reach out.
Every day is Mental Health awareness day. Please take care of yourself and your family – and let us know if we can help. Please call 231-689-7330 for assistance. We are available 24/7 for crisis and emergencies.
Preventing the Loss of a Loved One
By Sue Singelyn, Case manager/Supports coordinator at Newaygo County Mental Health
May is National Mental Health Month and we asked the folks from Newaygo County Mental Health to provide us with a series of articles to help promote awareness of the resources available for those seeking help. In this sixth installment Sue Singelyn speaks to being aware of suicidal signs in those around us.
One of the things I love most about living in Newaygo County is the casual exchanges with other people at the shops, post office, veterinarian, and passersby, usually talking about the weather. Michiganders are so friendly and caring! Sadly, the Coronavirus has changed some of these pleasantries into “seemingly small” losses. Over time, these losses can accumulate, adding up to increased depression, anxiety, feelings of loneliness, guilt, sadness and often increased thoughts of suicide. Our staff at CMH are trained and on high alert to look for suicidal signs and changes in our clients, but we can only monitor those who come in or call for support, leaving some gaps. Our staff are deeply concerned about safety, not only for our clients, but for those residing in the community as a whole. We can all help by being engaged, on high alert, and looking out for one another to fill the gaps with the hope and expectation of keeping everyone in our community safe.
Three months into the pandemic there are no solid statistics on increased suicide rates. However, half of Americans polled have said the pandemic is harming their mental health. One emergency hotline for people in emotional distress recorded a 1000% increase in April alone. We can extrapolate these and other trends to equal increased suicide rates, however, we can take steps to monitor our loved ones and reach out with concerns.
It can be difficult to determine if someone is serious about committing suicide. For example, people are posting on social media about intentions of committing suicide, which can be for many reasons that may or may not be sincere. However, every threat should be taken seriously and reaching out to professionals who can help is critical to finding answers and keeping everyone safe. It is a myth that asking someone if they are having suicidal thoughts will increase their chances of harming themselves. Asking shows you care and it is one of the most important things we can do when we are concerned about someone, both for them and for ourselves.
Most people who die by suicide tell someone they plan to hurt themselves, however, there are many signs that are more subtle. Following are listed some questions you can ask that might be “seemingly small” that, if recognized with action taken, can prevent loss of a loved one or a community member. Suicide is preventable. You do not have to know how serious a person is about suicide in order to help, just reach out and ask. Certainly if you recognize any of these signs in yourself, it’s very important that you reach out to us as well.
Through these difficult times, one thing that remains stable is the enduring caring and concern we have for each other, our friends, family and community. Caring for ourselves and others is a powerful gift we can give each other through these difficult times. Please contact us, we are here to help.
As a reminder, our crisis line is available for anyone and can be accessed 24/7 by calling 231-689-7580; Newaygo County Mental Health is ready to care for you.
By Mike Pumford
Forty two years as a proud citizen of Newaygo, twenty four years as a Teacher/Coach, six years as Newaygo’s State Representative and a constant prideful promoter of my town, our town. I NEVER thought I would feel the community shame I felt this past Thursday on May 21st.
Such a disappointment to turn on the news and see interviews with event organizers from Kalamazoo and multiple interviews from event participants from all over the state. What I didn’t see or hear was anything from local leaders taking credit for organizing the event. WHY? WHO ARE YOU? DO YOU EVEN EXIST?
It’s hard for me to believe that any local leader would allow an outside group to use our Community. A community that canceled its own locally scheduled events due to COVID-19.
Spending the last twenty four hours texting and talking, via phone, with like-minded community members, I am (we are) concerned that this spectacle that occurred on Thursday has done a considerable amount of damage to Newaygo.
Will tourists supporting our State’s Coronavirus mandates (the vast majority of Michigan’s citizens currently support these mandates) be less inclined to support a community that appears to place itself above the law?
Will local consumers be less inclined to be supportive of the businesses that participated in encouraging hundreds of outside non-masked and non-social distancing individuals into our community, increasing the possible spread of the Coronavirus? Are our community’s CHILDREN, OUR SENIOR CITIZENS, and our most VULNERABLE safer today because our community leaders allowed this event to take place? I think not!
To my former government students. Remember what we learned about FREEDOM:
“One mans’ freedom to swing his fist ends where another man’s nose begins”
this can also be stated:
“One man’s Freedom not to wear a mask and not to social distance ends with the possibility of infecting another person”
Newaygo-we are better than this! Be wise-stay safe.
(the joy of ordinary things)
by Tim McGrath
“I love little baby ducks, old pickup trucks, slow-movin’ trains, and rain…”
from I Love by Tom T. Hall
They used to be in dark, smoky rooms. The places I was warned about: bars, pool halls, back rooms of bowling alleys. No place for respectable kids to frequent. Lord knows what goes on there, we’ve heard the stories.
The temptation of the silver ball was just too great. I’d heard the sounds coming from the little room at the back of the bowling alley before, next to the bar. The forbidden zone. The place I had to go. It was as if an invisible hand was pushing me on, luring me in. The dark just added to the allure of the whole thing.
Stepping through the doorway, bowling bag in hand, I found myself in a dark world, save for the mesmerizing light coming from the machines standing side-by-side. Glowing tips of cigarettes cast a soft halo of orange light on the players’ faces who were hanging on grimly to the fronts of the machines. Fingers pounding flippers, jiggling, shoving the machines, swearing, lots of swearing. As my eyes adjusted to the dark and days-old smoke, I drifted to the table closest to me and leaned in.
“Hey, doofus, don’t bump the machine, or you’ll get a clip over the ear hole, stand back! I’ve just about got another free game!” the guy playing barked at me. Backing off, I watched, mesmerized, as the silver ball bounced, raced, and slunk around the table always threatening to drop down the middle or side channels. The flashing lights and musical ding, ding, ding of the score reels rolling over and over held me in their spell. I jumped as a loud THWACK shook the machine. “Hot dang, got it!” the player shouted. “That makes three, got to get me some more.”
“Come on, Danny, give it up, we’ve got to go. Let that kid play your games. You’ve been at it for an hour.” Danny stared at me with a doubtful eye. Clearly, he was concerned I was going to be a big disappointment.
“OK, kid, here you go, don’t blow it!” Danny said.
He handed over a living thing. Buckaroo’s back glass and playfield were garishly lit with smiling horses and pretty girls in skimpy, too-tight blouses. Come on kid, try it, just once, you’ll love it, pretty girl seemed to say. How could I possibly say no to that? Imitating Danny, I stood with feet firmly planted, ready for action at the front of the machine. Fingers on the flipper buttons, feeling the warmth pulsing through my sweaty palms. Giving the flippers a try, I pulled back the plunger and let the ball fly.
I had no idea what I was doing, of course. Just to watch, hear, and feel the ball bouncing around the playfield, racking up points on the mechanical reels, though, was enough. Trying in vain to smack the ball back up into the playfield proved to be difficult. It moved too fast, and my flipper skills were nonexistent. Just like that, all the free games Danny had racked up slipped away. Didn’t make one bit of difference, I was hooked.
Another guy came up and slapped a quarter down on the machine. “Move, kid, let me show you how it’s done.”
Picking up my bowling bag, I slouched around the perimeter of the dark room. Games with names like King of Diamonds, Sing Along, Flipper Parade, Lady Luck, Four Square. All of them reaching out with an invitation to a secret and mysterious place. Some of them a little naughty, all promising good times with a wink and a nod.
A good chunk of my youth from junior high through college was spent in that room, and others like it. They became a go-to place with my chums, but also a retreat of sorts when I just needed to get away from whatever kid angst I was suffering at the time. If there was something troubling me, being in that space and banging away on those machines helped me sort things out. Loads of quarters were fed into them, and I suppose it was some kind of primitive therapy. Plus, it was just plain fun. What a kick it was to win a free game. When the satisfying THWACK of the machine paying out a freebie came it was all I could do not to shout out, “Ladies and gentlemen, raise your glasses, the kid just won another!”
I’ll tell you, my friends, those were the days. Playing pinball in those slightly seedy places was a delight; an ordinary thing teenage boys did back then. It probably consumed too much time and hard-earned cash. But, no matter.
The siren song still calls. When I see a machine, I have to stop and check it out. If it’s a machine from those halcyon days, and I have a couple quarters, I step right up and have a go. Instinctively, I assume the stance, flipper fingers itchy just waiting to do a trap and shoot. Brings me right back to that joyful, carefree time.
Lately, I’ve heard about and seen other people picking up the forgotten things; stuff done in a dimly remembered past. Baking, cooking from scratch, sewing and knitting, puzzle making, playing board games, even darning socks. I’ve enjoyed posts on social media of people thrilled with the sound of spring peepers and birds. The lovely photos of beautiful spring wildflowers, trying to learn their names. Hiking on our beautiful North Country Trail, delighting in the discovery of some of its secret places. Fishing, the trials of gardening, raising chicks, throwing a ball.
Finding joy in ordinary things.
From our friends at Newaygo County Emergency Services
Newaygo County is a part of the MI-Safe Start Region 2 – Grand Rapids Region. We currently have 50 Lab Confirmed Positive COVID-19 cases in Newaygo County. This is almost double our cases in a two week period (since May 1st). As we proceed forward we must reopen gradually and safely. By proceeding incrementally, we can evaluate the effects of our decisions. Per the Health Department, if cases start to surge, we may need to tighten up again. If the disease is contained, we can keep relaxing. The MI Safe Start Plan will re-engage our economy carefully and deliberately to avoid a second wave of infections.
In order to safely re-engage, we are asking all businesses to help keep our community safe by following the District Health Department 10 public health guidance to ensure the health and safety of employees, customers, and visitors. This guidance is designed to assist community and business sectors in developing plans for reopening. Businesses, organizations, and communities are expected to participate in the control of COVID-19 in partnership with local public health departments – this may involve providing testing, contact tracing, and issuing their own quarantine process immediately, rather than waiting for local public health guidance. When sectors begin to reopen, their ability to procure necessary supplies, such as face coverings, hand sanitizer, hand washing stations, gloves, etc., must be considered.
Please keep in mind, under State Executive Directive 2020-6 and Executive Order 2020-91, the State of Michigan has charged each state department and agency with the responsibility for enforcing workplace health and safety standards and monitoring workplaces for compliance with rules adopted and if necessary bringing enforcement actions to ensure compliance. We strongly encourage all businesses and organizations to follow all guidance and timelines set for our Region. In addition, we encourage consultation with your liability insurance carriers for specific reopening plans developed. Businesses and organizations not adhering to the guidance in place face the risk of fines, revoking of licenses, and additional enforcement actions from the State of Michigan. We do not want to see that occur within our Community.
Together, and with your help, we will move forward. If you have any questions or need any additional guidance, please do not hesitate to contact the Emergency Services Department or District Health Department 10.
Bryan Berghoef, pastor and congressional candidate, invites community members to a Virtual Rural Town Hall on Wednesday, May 27 at 7pm. Berghoef is running for Michigan’s 2nd Congressional District which includes Newaygo and surrounding counties. The town hall can be joined via the internet or by phone. See the information below on how to access.
“Like most community members that I hear from, I am disturbed by the disruption and turmoil spreading across our nation. But I see this as an opportunity to take a turn toward compassion, decency, and strengthening our democracy together.”
The Rural Virtual Town Hall will give community members a chance to meet, hear and ask questions of Bryan Berghoef at this time of limited in-person gatherings.
“I want to hear from the citizens of Newaygo and the other surrounding rural counties, and help address the concerns and issues that you have. From the challenges of farming and food distribution, to the lack of job opportunities, to limited internet capabilities, to accessing affordable health care and prescription drugs, I want to know what you need from your representative to help create a better life for you and your family.”
Bryan was born in Grand Rapids, raised in Coopersville and Sparta, and spent summers at camp in Stony Lake. Currently the pastor at Holland United Church of Christ, Bryan graduated from the University of Michigan and completed his Master of Divinity degree at Calvin Theological Seminary. He has pastored churches in Traverse City and Washington DC. Pastor Berghoef is raising four children with his wife Christy in Holland, Michigan.
Bryan is also a pub theologian and author of the book, Pub Theology: Beer, Conversation, and God. Bryan has been facilitating weekly pub conversations for the past ten years. “Sitting at the same table, listening to people across the political spectrum, allows us to discover the common humanity in each other, and—despite some real differences—discover our shared values.” You can learn more about his background and policies at https://www.bryanberghoef.com/.
“I’m running for Congress because I continually witness how many people's voices are not heard and their needs not addressed. The dignity of a person should not be determined by the amount of money in their wallet. Big money influencing our politics is one of the greatest corruptors of democracy, influencing nearly every issue and contributing to our growing wealth inequality. I am not taking Corporate PAC money so I will not be bound to corporate interests once elected.”
Berghoef states that among his priorities as a Congressional Representative are to fix broken systems that can provide economic opportunities for all, restore democracy through working across the political aisle, and addressing security issues of violence, environment, and immigration governance.
To meet Bryan Berghoef and ask him questions, come to his Virtual Rural Town Hall on Wednesday, May 27 at 7pm. To join by phone dial 1-312-626-6799, and enter the PIN 81204777467# when asked. To join by internet, go to this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81204777467
Bikers, Veterans, Active Military and Concerned Citizens;
To honor all those who died during and after their efforts, in all the wars, to protect and defend our nation. We are Rolling to Remember.
For 32 years every Memorial Day, action has been taken to raise awareness for the critical issues facing our nation’s veterans. In 2020, we will continue the tradition through the “Rolling to Remember Challenge”.
As always, the health and safety of all riders and the veteran community is our top priority. Due to the federal and state restrictions on public gatherings and the guidance of public health officials amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the “Rolling to Remember” motorcycle demonstration will not take place in Washington, D.C. Instead, AMVETS National is asking each of you to ride 22 miles on Sunday, May 24, 2020 in your local communities.
Join me and my brothers Sunday May 24th in a salute to those men and women responsible for the freedoms we share. AMVETS Riders Chapter 4250 will be making the rounds of the local cemeteries in commemoration of “RIDE TO REMEMBER”, with a proper salute to all those who died in our defense as well as those who have taken their lives each day, due to the stresses of battle fatigue.
We ask that you wear PPE and keep safe distance from each other. Motorcycles will lead the procession and other vehicles to follow. Meet us at the VFW/AMVETS Hall, 45 Gene Furgason Ln, in Newaygo, MI, Sunday May 24 at 10am. Please email us with your intentions at, email@example.com, use “Ride To Remember, Newaygo” in the subject line.
By Lori Goldin-Baran L.L.P., L.P.C., Newaygo County Mental Health
May is National Mental Health Month and we asked the folks from Newaygo County Mental Health to provide us with a series of articles to help promote awareness of the resources available for those seeking help. In this fifth installment Lori Goldin-Baran riffs on some ways to cope during these unsettling times
I feel lucky as I am one of the few during this time of social distancing that I am an introvert. As I sit here looking out my window, I am mindful of the beauty of nature, the birds I hear singing through my window, the snow coming down in May and the little bit of sun that is peeking through the clouds. I know that others are not so lucky.
As a Case Manager and therapist at a Rural Community Mental Health agency in Michigan, I feel lucky, I know my friends, my clients and my coworkers are not having as easy of a time as I am getting through the Covid-19 social distancing quarantine order like I am. I have had friends message me with thoughts of suicide, panic, anxiety and boredom. I have had clients struggle with higher than normal anxiety level and boredom. I have had clients who normally are confined to their homes who to me appear to do nothing but watch television all day, struggle to find something to occupy their time during this pandemic inform me that they are going stir crazy. I had had clients tell me they feel so alone, they hurt and that they are afraid that they are going to die alone with this virus. I have had coworkers tell me on Zoom meetings that their own depression level is sky high. I have had coworkers lash out using all caps because they too are anxious working from home. These are coworkers treating our clients with severe and persistent mental illness. So I am worried, but I am lucky. I am an introvert who is busy, possibly too busy to deal with my own feelings of worry.
I have heard from friends who love this time, they usually are so busy working, commuting, taking care of family that they rarely have time to do anything to take care of themselves. I have heard that they are having an amazing time, cleaning, cooking, crafting and talking to their kids, watching Netflix and making the best of a really difficult time. These are effective coping skills for some. As a Dialectical Behavior Therapist, practicing participation and opposite action skills works well. These types of coping skills help you go with the flow of things even when you don’t feel like it. They are the fake it until you make it skills.
One of the most difficult things during this time of quarantining at home is the onslaught of negative news. The daily Press conferences, the Facebook posts. Criticism is everywhere you turn. It has become a burden to even pick up your phone. I know it has for myself and my clients. Every week when my phone sends me the little message stating how much time I spent online, I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I have tried to find something positive each day to post, I make a game out of posting pictures of my socks of the day based on how I feel when I wake up each day. How is that for opposite action? I’ve encouraged my clients to put their phones down, get off their computers and go outside and look up at the sky and just embrace nature. Breathe in and out, and practice mindfulness. Look up at the stars, take a walk in the woods or just simply walk your dog or prayer to whatever God you believe in. The art of mindfulness is a way to just be in the present moment, accept reality as it is and let go of the negative stressful feelings that have taken over you. Mindfulness has been proven to be beneficial with stress reduction, pain management, attention related symptoms, weight loss goals and to temporarily alleviate negative feelings.
On a daily basis it is important to continue as much of a normal schedule as possible. Wake up and go to bed at your normal time. Continue to take your medications, eat healthy if possible, I know being closer to your refrigerators 24/7 this may be difficult. Get exercise by walking or even by lifting soup cans from your pantry.
I feel lucky because I am a helper, I am a friend and I have the ability to see that this too shall pass. The stay at home order will end and will all move on to go back to work, to eat out, to see our friends, to travel, to shop and to once again achieve some kind of normalcy. However, life as we know it may never be the same as all remember the season of the great pandemic of 2020. May is mental health awareness month. If you or someone you know is struggling please reach out.
You are not in this alone. I care.
As a reminder, our crisis line is available for anyone and can be accessed 24/7 by calling 231-689-7580; Newaygo County Mental Health is ready to care for you.
I am glad that we are beginning to open more businesses and recreation.
But safety is actually quite simple: let us each follow President Trump’s White House Guidelines for individuals when in public and at work, with special emphasis on wearing face masks and keeping a minimum of 6 feet apart. (www.whitehouse.gov/openingamerica).
These may not guarantee protection from Covid 19 infection. But they will lessen your exposure, your children’s exposure, your parents and grandparents exposure, and decrease the amount of virus you might be exposed to so that even if you do get sick, it may be a milder case (the “viral load” rule).
Not wearing a mask is like having a designated pee area in a swimming pool - it doesn’t stay in one spot.
Wearing a mask does not fully protect from infection, but wearing a mask will help protect you and others as opposed to not wearing a mask. Two people wearing masks increases protection for both even more. Coupling that with standing at least 6 feet apart gives even more protection from spreading or catching the virus.
Not wearing a face mask in public is not a political or social statement about freedom or resistance. It is a statement that says “I don’t care if I spread the virus to the people around me, my friends, my family, my neighbors.” It says “I don’t care if I make other people sick or die. I don’t care if our local hospital, doctors and nurses get over capacity and over whelmed, and unable to properly care for me or my family.”
Wearing a mask and keeping six feet apart says, “I may not agree with all the Stay-at-Home regulations or the Executive Orders, but I do care about keeping myself, my family and my community safe and healthy.”
There is no completely correct solution to keeping the virus from spreading and infections from surging. But EACH of us (yes, everyone) can do at least this very simple thing that comes directly from President Trump’s White House Guidelines to help keep us all healthy, and our community re-opening in the safest way we are able.
Let us nod to each other all masked up in our stores, at work and in public to show support for our efforts in keeping our families safe and healthy.
Let us hear from our representatives to support these efforts, and to follow it themselves. Let us hear them encourage civil disagreement while masked up and six feet apart as opposed to unmasked rebellion.
In gratitude for the sacrifices our community members have made,
Story and photos by Kathy Morrison
Sometime during the last week of March, a cheeky male cardinal began waking me each morning, banging himself into the window, in attack mode, ready to defend his mate against the fierce rival he saw in the reflective glass. We have had cardinals come occasionally in the past, but this persistent fellow has appeared, each and every day, without fail, for a month and a half. Most days he returns in the afternoon to the front windows and taps or attaches to the screen and looks briefly inside until he flies off in his quest to protect the nest. As he makes his daily rounds, he has had me thinking a lot about a quote and a story and a daily habit, I try to maintain.
Long ago, I read the words of Saint Benedict, who, advised his 6th century monks to, “keep death daily before your eyes.” I thought it seemed a rather morbid thought but at the time, I did not understand his meaning. Not too many years later, I came across a Zen story about a “little bird” that we each have on our shoulder. The bird daily whispers into one’s ear, “This could be the day,” - your last day – the day of your death. Different spiritual Paths - same lesson. Suddenly, the words of St. Benedict made sense and I realized his meaning. In being conscious of one’s own mortality, we can learn to live each day differently than if we think our days are endless. In reminding myself each morning that “this could be it”, I can take a moment to decide how that “last day” might look and how I might better live it out: less prone to anger and more apt to be kind, less worried about the future and more aware of the present, less stressed and more at ease, less in need of “stuff” and more in need of love and connectedness with the world around me. Living without fear of what is to come, but instead, with gratitude for what is. Contemplating death doesn’t eradicate all fear of death, but it can transform the way one chooses to live.
The cardinal is, in some mythologies, is a representation of a loved one who has passed, returning to visit. I have many loved ones who have left this world, who I might like to think my feisty, winged friend may be. But just being the marvelous creation of Nature that he is, is enough. His timing couldn’t be better, appearing during a worldwide pandemic marked by unexpected and premature death. How apropos that this little scarlet visitor would come to my window each day, as if to say, “Remember St Benedict! Don’t forget the message of the Zen story.”
I look forward to seeing him on his daily rounds and am grateful for his reminder to focus my attention on the gifts of this day and to live it to its fullest, with my heart in the right place, for it could be my last.
Letter to the Editor Policy
Near North Now welcomes original letters from readers on current topics of general interest. Simply fill out the form below. Letters submissions are limited to 300 words.