Mental Health America of Boone County (MHABC) is a 501(c)(3) organization and a chapter of Mental Health America (formerly the National Mental Health Association), the country’s leading nonprofit dedicated to helping all people live mentally healthier lives. With approximately 300 affiliates nationwide, MHABC represents a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation — every day and in times of crisis. MHABC envisions a just, humane and healthy society in which all people are afforded respect, dignity and the opportunity to achieve their full potential free from stigma and prejudice.
Advocating for a Stronger and Healthier County
MHABC’s mission: “Mental Health America of Boone County promotes and develops programs providing safe refuge from traumatic life events and address intellectual, emotional, physical, recreational and cultural needs of the youth of Boone County and their families.”
MHABC CEO and President Pascal Fettig has worked in Boone County for more than 25 years. Fettig was born and raised in France and resided in Germany before immigrating to the U.S. when he was 18 years old. He is married and has 5 children, 10 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren, all of whom reside in Indiana.
Fettig is passionate about advocating for a stronger and healthier community, and through his role at MHABC, he is using his platform and voice to speak up for those who are suffering and too afraid to call out for help. And as the county grows, his concern is that the number of domestic abuse cases will continue to rise. Fettig is imploring the Boone County community to continue talking about it — and not just when there is a tragedy plastered on the front page and filling everyone’s social media newsfeeds.
“We need to talk about domestic violence,” Fettig stated. “We need to talk more and talk loudly — to say, ‘No more!’ I used to hope that we could eradicate [domestic] violence, but we’re never going to eradicate domestic violence or substance disorders. We need to figure out how to step up our prevention programs and figure out how to get abusers into some specialized programs. There are specialized treatments for substance disorders, and there’s specialized treatment for schizophrenia. We need to address domestic violence in that same manner; it is a sickness.”
As Fettig pointed out, there are several programs that help “after the fact” and assist survivors of domestic violence to get out of a situation.
Fettig added, “I don’t know how we’re really preventing the issue, because the abuser will just target someone else, and the survivor will [likely] remain vulnerable. Very few of them gain the strength that they need to become fully independent, and most get back into another [toxic] relationship. As human beings, we need companionship. We strive for it.”
The Ripple Effects of Domestic Violence
MHABC works with law enforcement and other community partners to assist survivors of domestic violence along their journeys to healthier and safer lives. Many of the programs are focused on establishing financial independence and the mental health aspects related to domestic abuse.
“Making the right choices can be difficult,” Fettig empathized. “Domestic violence is about manipulation and control. Some people argue with me that mental health has nothing to do with domestic violence, and that’s completely inaccurate. Obviously, 100 percent of survivors [of domestic violence] come out of the situation with PTSD, if not more. And almost 100 percent of them come out of it with some substance disorder issues. That’s the only way they can deal with the pain.”
Fettig explained that it’s not only the physical pain that survivors suffer from but psychological pain as well.
“Sometimes they’re [survivors] not allowed to go the doctors,” Fettig shared. “So, they have to figure out how to deal with both their physical and psychological pain. The financial control is a big one, and that’s why they don’t up and leave — because they don’t know what they’re going to do. They are dependent on their abuser.”
In addition to the survivors themselves, the children, family and friends of the survivor are also traumatized by the domestic violence. And the chances of the abuse becoming generational are great.
“It’s a tough one to fight, and a lot of people are afraid to say anything,” Fettig said. “You have to say something to the proper authorities and go to the professionals. And people need to not worry about whether they’re going to make their family member or friend — who’s being abused — mad, because they will get over it.”
The Need for Bolstered Awareness
In addition to the existing programs and protocols, Fettig is working with law enforcement and other community partners to expand on the programs and to create targeted public service announcements that will provide more assistance and awareness to survivors and to the community at large.
“We’ve recently secured a grant to provide legal services, and we need to attract lawyers that would be ready to help us with issues such as protective orders, evictions and things that are directly related to domestic violence,” Fettig said. “We have some funding for transitional housing or ‘rapid housing,’ which helps survivors become fully independent. They need to be able to stand on their own two feet, and they deserve a better quality of life.”
Fettig continued, “We need to get that awareness out there. Domestic violence is not just physical — it is emotional, verbal and financial. You do not have to be black and blue on the outside to be tremendously black and blue on the inside.”
The devastating impacts that domestic violence has on children is also a great concern to Fettig and those who serve the county’s abused children.
“Half of the time I hear of a panel or training for crisis intervention specific to child abuse, there’s nobody that is an expert on domestic violence on those panels,” Fettig stated. “And I ask, ‘Why?’ Because 69 percent of children involved in domestic violence environments have been maltreated themselves. That’s a huge percentage, so there’s so much more that needs to be done. And I’m not sure that we can get it done without the full support of the community. People have to stop saying, ‘They didn’t mean it. Give them another chance. They just got angry one time.’ One time is too much.”
Fettig, MHABC and other community partners remain committed to continuing their work towards advocacy and developing more specialized training programs aimed at not only mental health professionals, law enforcement agencies, school administrators and staff but also average citizens.
“We’re trying to figure out the best approach, because there’s so much and so many to educate,” Fettig expressed. “It’s a tough one all around, and all that we can do is keep trying. I truly believe that the more people talk, and the louder people talk about domestic violence, the better it’s going to be.”
For more information on Mental Health America of Boone County’s services, please visit mhaboonecounty.org. And for related articles, visit livinginboonecounty.com.