Hope can be born from pain and suffering.
No one can embody that spirit more than Brian and Alma Brunson, who will soon mark three years since their daughter Micaela’s death from suicide. Brian says, “our faith and the love of family, friends, church, and community, along with the help of counseling, provided us with ways to continue to deal with our tragedy. We want to strive to find ways to prevent the same loss for other families.”
Among the ways of coping with their loss is a new fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine to assist those in need with mental illnesses, especially youth, to fund transportation, counseling, and other expenses which can be a barrier to getting help. They also announce they have named their campaign Micaela’s Hope, complete with a logo to link all the activities they are doing to bring mental health out of the shadows.
The label Micaela’s Hope has been used during blood drives and other community events to honor their daughter’s memory, says Alma, but now they want to make it official and bring everything they are doing to remember Micaela under that banner. “Everyone copes with grief differently. We have chosen to do things like Micki did for others so that her light continues to shine,” she added. They have heard many stories about Micaela’s kind gestures since her death. The peacock feather is especially meaningful based on an experience during a family trip. Alma says that symbol sustains her in many ways.
Other activities planned for the future include development of a Hope Squad at Muscatine High School, which would be a peer-based support program for students. The idea would be to provide, “a mental health CPR program,” says Brian. “We aren’t experts and don’t expect others to replace professional counselors and therapists, but just like CPR, we and others can be front-line support to anyone who needs some help until they can get the expert help they need,” he explained.
Many of their ideas are a result of Brian’s participation in Leadership Muscatine, a year-long program that encourages employees of local businesses to become engaged with the community and provide innovative and inspiring ways to solve local issues. Brian Mussehl of First National Bank and Zachary Kinrade of CBI Bank and Trust were also involved in the creation of Micaela’s Hope.
Mental health support is at the forefront in Muscatine and other communities, as it is seen as a key component for success in school and work. It is the top priority of the Muscatine County Health Improvement Plan, according to Christy Roby Williams, Director of Public Health, for UnityPoint Health – Trinity Muscatine. Her department is responsible for carrying out tasks to achieve the plan’s number one goal—improve access to mental health services for all populations.
To support school-age children, four resource navigators are available at schools throughout the district. Families can access those services by contacting school counselors, administrators, or school nurses, says Roby Williams. “I was amazed to learn that some children as early as preschool and kindergarten are showing signs of mental health issues,” stated Alma.
In addition to the school navigators, other mental health services are available through the Eastern Iowa Mental Health And Disability Services Eastern Region Crisis Line at: 1-(844)-430-0375, UnityPoint Health – Robert Young Center 24/7 Crisis Intervention Line (309)-779-2999, the Muscatine Center for Social Action Drop In Mental Health Clinic, 312 Iowa Avenue, Muscatine, IA 52761, and at https://easterniowamhds.org/