SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A Springfield public official has family in Maine, where 18 people were shot to death.
Katie Towns, the director of Springfield-Greene County Health, couldn’t get in touch with her family members until Thursday morning. Luckily, her family is safe.
Towns was born in Lewiston, Maine. She tells OzarksFirst that the Lewiston community is extremely tight-knit.
“It hit pretty close to home to see that unraveling in a place that I know pretty dearly,” Towns said.
While there are still many details about the shooting that are unknown, Towns says shootings like these highlight the need for men’s mental health awareness.
“We see statistically that men in our community are suffering at a far greater rate than women and other people,” Towns said.
According to the health department, the suicide rate in Greene County is higher than the state and national average. Towns says men are 3.9 times more likely to die by suicide.
“We are very focused right now on efforts to increase conversation, to overcome stigma and to help men access the mental health care that they need,” Towns said.
One of the first steps to solving the problem, Towns says, is by removing the stigma surrounding men’s mental health.
“The resources are there and we just have to break down the barriers and overcome still that stigma that exists that prevents them from getting the care that they need,” Towns said.
Some of those local resources can be found here. The health department also began a campaign called “Hey man, you good?” that is working to start a conversation about men’s mental health.
“Unfortunately we live and exist right now in somewhat of a place of despair,” Towns said. “Despair is a normal thing, but it’s not a final sort of landing point.”