Substances and Mental Health

Substance use and abuse are major challenges that can affect an individuals mental health. “Substances” include a wide range of things that can alter physiology and behavior. These include legal drugs such as nicotine and alcohol to illicit drugs like cocaine and heroin. Our society accepts use of substances as a part of normal interpersonal interactions such as cocktails at a party, or beers with the guys while watching ‘the game.’ The issues occur when these activities start to take over an individual and become the focus rather than an augmentation of social interactions. These impacts extend past the effects on the person, but affect family, friends and even the community as a whole.

The following information focuses on alcohol use because of the ease of access, frequency of use and potential for abuse. The information has many commonalities with other substances. Excessive alcohol use resulted in approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost *each year* in the United States from 2006 – 2010? That is not a heartwarming statistic, it’s a real one…and one we should all be aware of as you cannot correct issues if you don’t know about them. Further, similar statistics are available for many other substances.

That said, for general information from the Centers for Disease Control please visit:

Let’s educate our community about the resources available – together we can make statistics like the one above a thing of the past.

The Public Health Corps, whose mission it is to offer support to our community on topics related to health, has a number of information sources which we would like to share with you. Feel free to check out the links which we hope may answer questions or provide insight:

How to Recognize an Alcohol Addiction

Drug Use Signs/Symptoms – Narconon

Signs of Addiction and Drug Use

Helping a Family Member or Friend with an Addiction Problem

Alcohol Abuse in the Family (Genetics & Alcoholism)

5 Signs You Have an Addictive Personality

The Guide to Aquatic Therapy for Recovering Addicts

Stress Management: How to Reduce, Prevent, and Cope with Stress

Addiction Recovery and Procrastination Habits

Personal Goal Setting – How to Set SMART Goals

The Guide to Keeping Your Home Through Debilitating Disease




A caring community can change the world

Written by
Dr. Ken Massey

There are people in our community who are at risk of dying of a terminal illness and we can help to stop the progression of this killer. The Farmington SAFE (Suicide Awareness For Everyone) organization has a mission to reduce the incidence of suicide in our community.

Suicide is a serious public health problem that can have lasting devastating effects on individuals, families, and communities. A few sobering statistics to ensure the scope is understood: on average 38,000 citizens take their own lives every year in the United States. This equates to a death about every 14 minutes. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among persons ages 15-24 years, the second among persons ages 25-34 years. It affects every race, gender, profession, religion and social class.

The pain and suffering caused by these losses is enormous and cannot be calculated, but suicide results in an estimated $34.6 billion in combined medical and work loss costs.

So how do we deal with this difficult issue? Some might feel that it is simply too challenging. There is no simple answer because the causes of why someone would even contemplate suicide are complex and determined by multiple factors.

But the goal of suicide prevention is simple: Reduce risk factors and increase factors that are protective and promote resilience. Ideally, prevention addresses all levels of influence: individual, relationship, community, and societal.

Effective prevention strategies are needed to promote awareness of suicide and encourage a commitment to social change. That is where Farmington SAFE plays a role. We promote awareness, not just awareness of the pain, costs, and scope of suicide, but awareness that we can lower the incidence by assuring individuals who suffer from depression that they are not alone and help is just a phone call away.

Lacking resources

When the SAFE group formed in mid-2010, we knew we had citizens, our friends and neighbors, who had needs but the group had a naive notion that our community may be lacking key resources. The resources are available. What the SAFE members learned was that connecting those needing help with existing resources was the challenge. We have to be able to “talk about it.”

Suicide rarely happens without warning signs. Just like heart attacks, stroke and cancer, there are signs and symptoms. It is readily accepted that if we understand the early signs of physical illness and seek early treatment, we reduce the death rates from those conditions. We understand these because we can “talk about it.”

We see articles in print media, radio spots and television programs on cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, colonoscopies, mammograms and arthritis. We discuss treatments and new therapies over coffee or cocktails with our friends. What about the warning signs of mental illness? Why is there a perception of stigma in that discussion? What is the reticence to discuss the issue?

This is where our community comes in. This is how we can change the world. We can change our dialog and strive for understanding, early detection, and treatment of developing mental illnesses just like we do for physical ones.

How many times a day are we asked, or do we ask, “How are you?” How often do we really listen to the answer? Let us be the community that starts listening and if we hear answers that give us pause, or see behaviors that are signals, let’s have the courage to reach out to each other and ask that follow-up question.

If the answer raises red flags, encourage the person to seek assistance or place the call for help yourself — just like jumping in to administer CPR. You might just safe a life. In this age where we are all moving fast and “too busy” to get involved, we are becoming increasingly disconnected. To a person with suicidal ideations who feels alone, and despondent, that real connection, someone who asks “how are you” and cares about the answer may be the one who changes the future.

No stigma

First though, we as a community need to understand that we can discuss these issues and that there is no stigma in getting treatment. Recently, an event was held to raise funds for the work done by Farmington SAFE. A couple at the restaurant for dinner found themselves in the middle of the fundraiser for suicide prevention work. Their comments were telling. “Here is a topic that most people refuse to even speak of, being dealt with by a group head-on, and being discussed openly in an event that was enjoyable. What a community.”

The cities of Farmington and Farmington Hills are communities that care. We can make a difference and change the world if we can change the dialog. Farmington SAFE is ready to provide you with the information and resources to help with that. Let’s do our best to let people know that we do care and there is nothing wrong in asking for help.

Let’s talk about it.



Farmington Hills task force gets people talking about depression, suicide

By: Joni Hubred-Golden |


In 2010, Farmington Hills council members Nancy Bates, Randy Bruce, and Ken Massey met to talk about a startling number of attempted and completed suicides in their city.
Four years later, an organization that grew from that conversation, Farmington SAFE (Suicide Awareness for Everyone), has sponsored six successful community meetings on topics ranging from substance abuse to domestic violence. And council member Ken Massey believes the community-based task force is making some headway.
Actually, he knows it is. Massey said he has heard from five people who told him information from the “community conversations” lead them to get help for a family member in trouble.
“I think we’ve accomplished a lot,” he said. “We’ve increased awareness, there’s no doubt about that. We’re talking about suicide, which is difficult, but we are slowly changing the dialogue in our community.”

More community conversations

Farmington SAFE plans a new season of community conversations on post-traumatic stress disorder, bullying, and other topics, Massey said. SAFE also holds an annual fundraiser at Grand Tavern in Farmington Hills and plans to continue this summer’s community softball game, which drew more than 250 people.
“It’s a community oriented event, people are having fun, but you’re there because you’re dealing with a tough issue,” Massey said.
SAFE activities are funded through the Graham E. Smith Memorial Fund for Suicide Prevention. Ken and his wife, Katherine, launched the foundation after Katherine’s son committed suicide in May of 2011.
The Masseys were very open about Graham’s death. “We learned you have to talk. You have to be out there,” Ken Massey said.
And that’s the Farmington SAFE motto: “Let’s talk about it.” To learn more about the group, visit their Facebook page.
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. If you or someone you know needs help with depression or suicidal thoughts, call Common Ground, 1-800-231-1127 or visit



Not a month goes by that doesn’t have a specific designation to raise awareness of an illness, campaign or any number of efforts. This month is dedicated to suicide awareness and emergency preparedness — issues some residents are working hard to highlight.

Farmington Hills Police Chief Chuck has said that mental health “remains one of our public safety and community’s biggest challenges. Going into any given year, mental health will result in more deaths and personal injuries than from crime and accidents at home and in the work place.”

Yet, efforts to raise awareness of mental health and suicide due in large part to the local SAFE — Suicide Awareness for Everyone — appear to have had an impact. Adult suicides in Farmington Hills have decreased from 10 in 2011, to seven in 2012, six in 2013, and through the first eight months of 2014, there have been four incidents of suicide, Nebus said.

Efforts led by SAFE and in particular, Farmington Hills City Councilman Ken Massey — the public face for the volunteer organization — are determined to remove the stigma attached to mental health and suicide discussion, awareness and in turn, raise prevention and response.

While the city has had annual decreases in suicides since 2011, the community unfortunately still has lost a total of 27 residents to deaths that may have been prevented. Other statistics also show a need for residents to join forces to learn the signs of mental health troubles and potential suicide.

Since 2011, 257 residents have attempted suicide, while 307 have threatened to kill themselves. In that same time period, Farmington Hills police sought mental health help through petitions for 809 residents.

The statistics show that increasing numbers of residents and family members are asking for help. “We are now responding to more threats of suicide than actual suicide attempts. More people are reaching out for help,” Nebus said. “For the past three years, we have experienced countless examples of depressed suicidal persons reaching out to friends, co-workers, social media or calling 911 rather than reaching for pills or a weapon.”

In one example, Nebus told of a suicidal teen driving on the freeway, who pulled off to the side of the road and dialed 911. “These are stories that demonstrate the success of our community initiatives.”

In yet another effort to save lives in the community, the Farmington Hills/Farmington Emergency Preparedness Commission is working to engage residents and involve them in making plans to be ready in case of emergencies, including flooding, weather, terrorism.

In this month designated as National Preparedness Month, the local commission is stressing the importance of not only emergency plans, but for families to create kits of supplies, such as water and a battery powered radio, that allow them to take care of themselves for at least 72 hours.

It is foolish to rely on luck to stay alive in a disaster. If families are prepared whether it’s having an exit plan for house fires or survival kits for disastrous weather — flooding, tornadoes, blizzards — the chances for survival increases tremendously.

“Most people don’t know what they need or what to do first. Yes. They need a plan and a disaster kit,” said Tim Tutak, vice chair of the Farmington Hills/Farmington Emergency Preparedness Commission.

Just think of this summer’s rain and how many Detroit area residents and motorists were stuck in the middle of flooding in homes and on the roads. It just takes a split second to be caught off guard, Tutak said.

The two organizations — SAFE and Emergency Preparedness Commission — work tirelessly to ensure that residents remain safe and alive. Each organization offers residents plenty of resources to help in that effort.

Each also works tirelessly to drive home an important reminder: Being part of a community means all look out for each other. That means checking on your elderly neighbors or noticing what kids are up to in your neighborhood.

Within the family and circle of friends, it is about caring enough to interfere and to ask questions when something doesn’t seem quite right with someone. Sure, the response may be anger, denial or silence. That’s OK. Just don’t give up.

While September continues, let’s be determined to ensure each others safety whether in times of emergencies or disasters or in personal troubled times. Losing even one person diminishes the community.



Local suicide prevention efforts among ‘best practices’ at national conference

Farmington SAFE will be showcased during the National League of Cities conference, held November 19-22 in Austin, TX.

A local suicide prevention effort that began with concerns raised by several Farmington Hills city council members will be part of a “best practices” showcase during the 2014 National League of Cities (NLC) conference, held November 19-22 in Austin, TX.

City council members Ken Massey, Nancy Bates, and Randy Bruce began talking about suicide prevention about four years ago, after a police department monthly report showed a startling number attempted suicides among young people. Since then, Farmington SAFE (Suicide Awareness for Everyone) has hosted a half dozen community conversations on topics like suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered teens, and the relationship between substance abuse and suicide.

In addition, the group has launched an annual community softball game and picnic, held for the first time last August.

Massey said Monday that the NLC presentation will show other cities how to emulate the local program. Locally, he said, the City of Royal Oak has already formed a SAFE group. He has also had conversations with the cities of Saginaw, Bay City, and Southfield, and interest from Grosse Pointe.

To learn more about Farmington SAFE, visit or follow the group on Facebook.

More on Farmington Voice: Farmington Hills task force gets people talking about depression, suicide