Mental health professionals to South Dakotans: Don't delay asking for help

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Corson In the last two weeks, our world has changed, and as we navigate through the coronavirus pandemic, mental health professionals are ready to help.

Mental Health issues surrounding coronavirus pandemic

Sheri Nelson is the Suicide prevention director at the helpline center and describes what some are experiencing. "Anxiety, a lot of stress around this time and dealing with the uncertainty." She says the calls they receive when people call the 211 Helpline often start with basic questions. "People are calling in who have questions regarding Covid-19, people who may have symptoms, and so we are helping them and directing them to where they need to go. Helping to get them the right facts, and to help people calm down," said Nelson.

Stress, anxiety and fear around home schooling, jobs, finances, and catching coronavirus can be a heavy weight. Mental health resources are working in tandem to connect you to the right care.

At Avera Behavioral health, Vice President of clinical behavioral health services Dr. Matthew Stanley describes the change in the needs of patients. "We are probably seeing a reduced number of people coming in, but what we are seeing is when they finally realize they need to get help, often the cases are more advanced, they are in greater need of help. Often the cases are more advanced. People are in greater need of help at that point," said Dr. Stanley.

All appointments, emergency room, and hospital services continue at Avera Behavioral Health. They have a plan in place for the care of those who have tested positive for Covid-19.

Government-funded Southeastern Behavioral Health continues to see clients at the same rate or higher than before the coronavirus threat. Clinical director Melissa Tauer says they have most of the same resources available: "psychiatric services. Individuals have access to regular therapy, group therapy, psychiatry, medication management. All those things they need to stay well and manage their mental health," said Tauer.

Southeastern also continues its mobile crisis team.

The closure of the Clubhouse drop-in center at Southeastern Mental Health has been difficult for those who relied on the resource as a tool in managing their mental health. With 325 members, attendance created social distancing concerns. It had to be shut it down. Amy Hollingshead was the director. "Be able to socialize, and have an active part of their day. We centered a lot of activities around lunch. We had a snack shop that our members run. A chance for members to connect and be a part of a larger group and have a purpose," said Hollingshead."

The members who miss the clubhouse are getting extra phone calls, but they understand it's not the same. Could they open again and allow fewer people? It is being considered. "Public safety is our priority right now, so we have to look at how we will operate, under that those are things. We are evaluating right now. It's just trying to get those things in place," said Hollingshead." In the meantime, the staff is making additional phone calls to stay in touch. They also provided a care package for the clients who usually enter their doors at the Club House. It has a list of at-home activities, links to online activities, and word games.