Walz, Experts Stress Importance of Mental Health Services Ahead of New Restrictions
ST. PAUL – Minnesota Governor Tim Walz Friday discussed the effect the COVID-19 pandemic and isolation can have on mental health, and outlined new funding dedicated to addressing the issue.
In a call with media members, Walz announced a $1.2 million donation from the IKEA US Community Foundation dedicated to providing mental health support to students. Walz says the funds complement $3 million from the CARES Act dedicated to mental health resources.
The announcement arrived hours before a new round of statewide virus-fighting restrictions on businesses, events and social gatherings take effect.
“There’s an economic cost that comes with these decisions, and there’s also a mental health cost for all of us,” Walz said. “I think it needs to be acknowledged that feeling a sense of anxiety or frustration or desperation is not all that unusual.”
Joining Walz on the call, Julie Hanenburg, Executive Director of Milaca-based Lighthouse Child and Family Services, said “COVID fatigue” is a condition that affects every person to some extent.
“We are all impacted by COVID – it’s not a question, it’s a fact,” Hanenburg said. “Whether you’re an adult who has been impacted by a change in employment, ranging from the loss of a job to added hours to cover for coworkers, those experiences may be affecting your mental health.”
Hanenburg says proper mental health care is also critical to children and young adults dealing with the temporary loss of school, sports and other social outlets.
“If you’re an adult, and you’re anxious about what’s happening around you, let’s think about the impact that has on a 10-year-old developing brain, or a six-year-old developing brain,” she said.
Hanenburg says she’s troubled by the fact that Lighthouse has not seen an increase in referrals and intakes for mental health services, including tele-mental health visits - suggesting people are either unable or reluctant to reach out for help.
“Sometimes, when we’re overwhelmed, it feels like more work to schedule an appointment,” she said. “But now, it’s imperative that we pay attention to ourselves and one another, and encourage our loved ones to seek help.”
Minnesota’s latest round of restrictions will remain in place through Friday, December 18. Governor Walz says an extension is possible if data does not trend in a positive direction.
For more information on mental health resources, visit the State of Minnesota’s website.