GRAND HAVEN — An upcoming virtual town hall will explore the impact of COVID-19 on mental illness.


Hosted by Momentum Center in Grand Haven, the town hall will take place 6:30-8 p.m. Monday, May 11, via Zoom and will feature several panelists discussing mental health issues. Panelists include Lynne Doyle from Ottawa County Community Mental Health, Brett VanTol from Pine Rest, Jody Sprauge from Spectrum Health and more.


Momentum Center has hosted town halls related to mental health issues in the past, but this will be the first one held virtually.


“We started having live town halls on mental illness about three and a half years ago,” Barbara Lee VanHorssen of Momentum Center said. “The concern was that if we tried to do it virtually, we would miss that conversation piece. As everyone got more information about Zoom, we learned about breakout rooms and that reintroduced large group and small group discussion in a virtual format.”


The town hall will begin with each panelist speaking for a few minutes before transitioning to a question-and-answer session and then to small group discussions in breakout rooms.


VanHorssen said addressing mental health is always important, but the pandemic has added additional stresses and strains for people in the community.


“There’s a long-standing need to elevate mental health into the arena of awareness where we hold physical health,” she said. “With this outbreak, we know there are all kinds of reasons mental health is being challenged. There’s isolation, the fear of getting sick, the fear of a loved one sick, the stress of first responders and what they’re going through, the economy, the concerns people have for personal financial well-being. There are so many tangents to this.”


VanHorssen hopes the town hall can help eliminate the stigma around mental health discussions and connect people with resources.


“I want people to leave with an increased awareness that we’re all in this together and a reduction of any stigma around mental illness or emotional struggle,” she said. “We are equipped with resources to get help.”


The event is free, but registration is required in order to receive the link and password for the meeting. VanHorssen said downloading the Zoom app is necessary to participate in the breakout sessions, but not the initial panel discussion.


To register, visit momentumcentergh.org/covid-town-hall.


There will also be a free QPR (suicide prevention) training session offered prior to the town hall at 5 p.m. To register for the QPR training, call 616-842-9160.


— Contact reporter Mitchell Boatman at mboatman@hollandsentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @SentinelMitch.