By Katie Ottinger
Kim Hall worked in the banking industry for many years and recalls getting to know customers and the joys and troubles of their lives. With a note of sadness in her voice, she shares a staggering fact:
Since that time, three customers she worked with have taken their own lives.
That’s why she joined the Mental Health Partners of Hancock County (MHP) board of directors in 2010. Since April of 2015, she’s been the executive director of the social service nonprofit.
“I’ve completed suicide prevention training for that reason because there are people sitting at a desk who talk to people every day, and they don’t know how to help,” Hall says. “That’s why I’m here, and that’s my passion.”
MHP focuses on addiction recovery and suicide prevention. From January to April 2016, Hancock County averaged one suicide death per week among its residents. The most current data hasn’t been officially reported, but based on word of mouth, Hall believes this trend has not yet improved.
One service MHP provides is mental health counseling for individuals with extreme financial need, focusing on grief, anxiety and depression. Through MHP, a person can attend six free, hour-long sessions with one of two therapists with whom MHP contracts. They helped 18 people last year with counseling services.
MHP also convenes a Teen Forum that works to remove the stigma of mental illness. Hall recalls a story that frustrated one of the teen members and motivated her to catalyze change. A student sitting next to her in the school cafeteria dropped a tube of lip balm and it rolled toward a table where students with autism were sitting. This student didn’t pick it up because she didn’t want to go near “them.” Hall said the Teen Forum member who witnessed this became involved with MHP because she believes too many students don’t know how to interact with their peers who have disabilities.
Finances and sustainability are constant needs for all nonprofit organizations, but with multiple leadership changes in a short period of time, MHP was having trouble making ends meet.
To ensure the good work continues, the Mental Health Partners of Hancock County Operating Endowment Fund was established at the Hancock County Community Foundation by an anonymous donor in 2016. The fund will provide operating funding to Mental Health Partners of Hancock County to further its mission – working for the promotion and preservation of mental health and wellness, increasing access to resources in the treatment of persons who are affected by emotional or mental illness, and forming partnerships between business entities, government agencies and private individuals and organizations to achieve those goals.
“I was so shocked. I wanted to cry,” Hall describes her reaction to the news that this fund had been established. “When someone tells you they believe in you, that really gives you the ability to believe in yourself and know that you’ve been doing something right. Even if you don’t know who that person is, that gives you a reason to want to h
help more people.”