2023-08-09T22:01:12-04:00August 9th, 2023|

During the Finance and Administration meetings on July 18 and August 1, 2023, the Ottawa County Health Department requested approval of a contract with Grit Digital Health for an advertising campaign targeting mental health issues.

Statistics were shared from the health department via a handout that the populations having the highest rates of death by suicide in the past 12 years are: veterans, followed by males, and then those aged 50+. This data can be found under suicide reports at miottawa.org/healthdata.

The Health Department’s suggestion for combatting mental health was to contract with Grit Digital Health. The protocols of the advertising campaign would have utilized social media to drive men to the Man Therapy website. In preparation for the meetings, I reviewed the site and found links that are highly concerning. Under a section labeled “LGBTQ Crisis and Support Resources,” there are links targeting kids.

I followed these links to The Trevor Project, where youth are encouraged to text, call, or chat through online messaging with adults they do not know regarding mental health, sexuality, gender fluidity, and other topics.

Headings designed for youth state: “You deserve a welcoming, loving world… Here you can reach out to a counselor if you are struggling… Call, text, or chat with us anytime.”

If you do a deep dive on The Trevor Project website you can find, “Our counselors are located in multiple states in the United States; while all of our counselors are trained, they are not working as licensed mental health workers and may not be trained in your state’s law.”

There is a mixed message being sent to youth today. On one hand, we are educating our children about internet safety, safe adults, and talking with a parent or another trusted adult about hard topics and issues. We then are driving them to websites where they are encouraged to speak to a complete stranger, and that stranger tells them that their conversation will be confidential—I would suggest the phrase “kept secret.”

Unless a Trevor Project “counselor” has reason to believe a child is at imminent risk of death or serious injury, the promise is that the conversation will be kept confidential.

And all this “counseling” for kids, was accessed from a link on a site for men. This is not acceptable.

Earlier this year, I voted for a county resolution to protect the innocence of children.

Within that resolution, it states, “Children are our greatest treasure and our most vulnerable population. We must always weigh the risk of harm to children in public policy decisions. We value integrity and excellence and will not trade the innocence of children for other governmental goals.”

I returned to the site where I began, the Man Therapy website. I found that there are potentially some good things being promoted for adult men such as: a focus on exercise, eating well, quitting smoking, anxiety, fatherhood, and a head check assessment that could provide further mental health options for men, such as counselors, seeing a physician, etc.

Is there some potential benefit to men seeking help from a social media website? Possibly. However, more research is still needed in this area. According to one study done regarding Man Therapy, results suggest online screening might play a role in reducing suicidal ideation and depression among men and there are potential benefits to Man Therapy related to mental health, social support and treatment motivation.

As Thomas Sowell expressed, “there are no perfect solutions, there are only trade-offs.”

With the trade-off involving exposing youth to inappropriate content as a result of this contract, I voted against it at the August 1st meeting.

I look forward to other opportunities brought forward from Ottawa County’s Community Mental Health Department, along with Veterans Affairs, to address the need to prevent suicide here in Ottawa County. We will continue to seek best practices—focusing on current understandings and data of those most at risk— while at the same time protecting the innocence of our children.

*** The action item to contract with Grit Digital Health for an advertising campaign targeting mental health issues failed with a 7 – 3 vote.

Study regarding Man Therapy: Effectiveness of man therapy to reduce suicidal ideation and depression among working‐age men: A randomized controlled trial – Frey

Resolution to Protect Childhood Innocence: https://www.miottawa.org/Departments/BOC/resolutions.htm#innocence