Forum on mass shootings in Grand Haven Monday

Ottawa County

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Mental Health experts and community leaders along the lakeshore are teaming up to confront stigmas associated with mental health and the negative effects mass shootings can have on society.

The Momentum Center for Social Engagement on Columbus Avenue in Grand Haven believes mental health disorders are being scapegoated as the root cause for most mass shootings in America. 

Barbara Lee VanHorssen, the executive director of the Momentum Center says this stigma is dangerous.

“There’s a real big leap to talking about mental illness as the cause of all of these shootings,” VanHorssen said. “We think it’s important to tease out the difference between mental illness and mental health.”

Mental health issues can range from schizophrenia to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder whereas a mental illness, according to Van Horssen, especially when left untreated can lead to problems. 

“We need to emphasize the fact that we do have a mental health crisis in our society,” Van Horssen said. “We do have people that are struggling with self-esteem issues and anger and fear. Those things are going untreated. So, we do need to address the mental health needs in our community without stigmatizing people.”

The stigmas that are often attached to those struggling with various forms of mental health issues are what Van Horssen hopes to address in the town hall Monday evening. 

“These are community issues and they require a community response,” Van Horssen said. “We really need to move beyond the blaming and pointing and figure out how we can actually be part of bringing healing and health and wholeness to our community.”

Monday’s meeting will include a panel of speakers who will address the public on the dangers of stigmatizing those suffering with mental health problems, and the negative effects mass shootings have on our society. 

Speakers will include Bob VandePol of Pine Rest; Sarah Lewakowski, executive director of Mosaic Counseling; Spring Lake High School student Gabby Easterly; Ottawa Area Intermediate School District Assistant Superintendent Mike Rohwer; Dr. Gina Ramirez, a pediatrician and member of the Grand Rapids chapter of Moms Demand Action; Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Kempker; Sgt. Chris Koster of the sheriff’s office; and psychological first aid specialist Joellen Rhyndress of HealthWest.

These speakers will also promote student wellness by hopefully creating a safe environment for students to speak up when they need help. 

“We need to create an open dialogue so that people feel comfortable asking for help, and we need to be able to identify the different ways that we can intervene to bring positive influence to people who are struggling,” Van Horssen said.

She argues everyone is affected by mental health problems in some shape or form. 

“We’re all dealing with something, at some point,” Van Horssen continued. “One in four of us will have a mental health illness in our lifetime which means three out of four of us have a loved one with a mental illness. This is effecting everybody.”

There will be a free Q/PR Training, suicide prevention training, offered before Monday night’s event. It only takes an hour to complete but event organizers ask that you sign up beforehand if interested.

The training session will begin at 5 p.m. and run until 6 p.m. The town hall is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Grand Haven Community Center, located at 421 Columbus Avenue.

For more information, check out their website.  

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