Pastor calls attention to mental health issues
By Angie Landsverk
A pastor of a local church is using his new haircut to raise awareness about mental health.
“The idea behind it for me is in a town like Weyauwega, if a pastor has a mohawk, folks will notice, and folks will ask,” said Rev. Dan McCurdy. “Personally, I’m not a sufferer, but I know of lot of people who are.”
McCurdy is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Weyauwega.
He is among those participating in the 1 Million Mohawks for Mental Health Challenge.
People are encouraged to get a mohawk, spike their hair or get a colored stripe down the middle of their hair or scalp in an effort to increase awareness about mental health, substance abuse and suicide.
McCurdy and his wife, Rose, were at the Hitching Post for lunch on May 23 when he noticed something on TV about people of all ages sporting mohawaks.
It caught his attention, and he learned about the challenge after looking it up online.
A day later, he was at Cost Cutters in Waupaca getting a mohawk.
“By being that awkward, almost middle-aged guy, no one will mistake me for a punk rocker,” he said. “I’ve never had a mohawk before. I never thought I could pull it off in high school or college.”
He sees his mohawk as being an opportunity to start conversations about mental health.
Mental health is a disease, McCurdy said.
However, many people continue to have a difficult time talking about it, he said.
When someone has a heart issue, no one says, “It’s just in your heart,” McCurdy said.
If someone has a stroke or breaks a leg, that person is not shunned.
“We need to be clear that we are not shunning people because of their mental health, and then we need to follow through,” McCurdy said.
He also has a message for his fellow local pastors and priests.
McCurdy does not believe they do enough to talk about this topic.
“It’s a real health need,” he said. “By not taking care of it now, when someone ends up in the ER because something happened, it’s so much harder to deal with it.”
McCurdy says telling someone to pray harder or take on a more of a positive attitude is not enough.
“Talking to people is the first step,” he said.
Pastors should refer people to counselors and therapists when necessary, McCurdy said.
“I urge pastors and priests to make this something they do and to get over their own biases and stigmas they have,” he said.
There is a significantly less stigma in Wisconsin related to alcoholism “just because everyone knows someone who is an alcoholic,” McCurdy said.
He believes the same thing needs to happen with mental health.
Those who in the past told someone to just get over it, should apologize to the people they said it to and offer to listen to them, he said.
“If folks want to talk about it (mental health), they may seek me out. Talking to someone is a start. I’m available,” McCurdy said.
He encourages others to seek out their own pastors.
“It’s never weak to seek help,” McCurdy said.
He said it is also important for people to talk to their children about mental health and to tell them it is something people deal with and that is treatable.
He said people are noticing his mohawk.
“That’s something I could do, because I needed a haircut anyway,” he said. “I hope what this will do is maybe inspire other people to do it and to talk about mental health and suicide.”
McCurdy said, “If you don’t do the mohawk, at least take a look at how you look at mental health issues.”
This past Sunday, McCurdy did a pulpit exchange with a church in Oshkosh, so he will be in front of his congregation this upcoming weekend instead.
However, most of his congregation already knows about his new look.
They 36-year-old plans to have this look for at least a couple of weeks.
“Do something on top of your head so you can start the conversation inside your head,” McCurdy said. “I hope people see this and start the conversation.”