The people of Duncan asked for it and now thanks to Duncan Public Library Director Ashlee Germaine and the American Library Association, they’re going to get it.
“It” is mental health help.
Starting next month, Duncan residents will be invited to meet on the first Thursday of every month to discuss mental health issues and positive tools to try to combat them, Germaine said. Each meeting will start off with a movie or a book that delves into mental health.
“We’ll talk about how we can benefit from the character’s story or discuss how they could have handled each situation better,” Germaine said.
The new program comes courtesy of a $3,000 grant awarded by the American Library Association. Duncan is one of 200 libraries participating in Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries. Overall, 300 libraries applied for the grant.
As part of the grant, Germaine is taking an online course in how to lead the conversations and increasing the library’s collection of books on the topic.
According to the grant application Germaine submitted, the most recent data available shows the per capita income in the Town of Duncan is $19,795 and while Greenlee County’s poverty rate is 10.5% Duncan’s is 26.5%.
The application also pointed out Duncan is served by one clinic that’s only open Mondays through Thursdays and where mental health services are often conducted by telemedicine and must be scheduled in advance.
“Isolation is a pervasive factor in this deeply rural community, where just a few hundred people are concentrated in Town of Duncan proper, with the rest of the population scattered out across farms, ranches and tiny unincorporated settlements,” the application stated.
“Many residents have come to Duncan in search of a quiet, rural lifestyle. But the realities of scarce medical resources, especially mental health resources, have become especially pronounced as the dangers of coronavirus infection reduce social opportunities for residents and leave some individuals dangerously cut off from others,” the application stated.
It went on to say, “The community has been rocked by suicides in the last year, especially those that have occurred among children and young adults. There is growing fear that the town lacks a minimum level of suicide prevention services. This proposal is a key step in addressing that lack of resources.”
Germaine said she wanted to provide a safe place where people can share what they are going through, what is on their minds and feel heard and supported.
“I had asked some parents what they needed,” and they all said people are struggling and need help, Germaine said.
Germaine said she’s half-way through the online course and she’ll be getting help leading the discussions from Barry Speck, the senior pastor at Eden Health in Morenci who also holds a degree in crisis counseling.
No one will be turned away from the sessions; if the group becomes too large due to COVID-19 restrictions, they’ll simply move outside, Germaine said.
“We are so proud to be chosen for this amazing opportunity,” Germaine said. “This grant will allow our library to get to know our residents better and help us build a happier and healthier community for our families.”
Duncan Town Manager John Basteen said Germaine has successfully applied for several grants since she came onboard for which he is grateful.
“This is wonderful. It’s going to help our area a lot,” Basteen said. “Normally in Duncan people hug each other automatically and now because of COVID, there this space issue and we’re not having the level of interaction that we’re used to. Some people are having a hard time with it.”