As pandemic stresses mount, leaders encourage Minnesota parents to consider mental health help for kids

With new restrictions from COVID-19 set to kick in Friday night, state and health leaders worry about the mental load the new round of dial-back measures could bring into the lives of Minnesotans.

With that impact, Governor Tim Walz and mental health leaders are urging people who need help to seek it out -- while urging parents to watch for changes in their children during the pandemic.

"Things like excessive fears or worries, significant tiredness, changes in sleeping or eating habits," said Sue Abderholden with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). "Even things like the inability to cope with daily problems."

The IKEA Community Foundation has donated $1.2 million to the state of Minnesota, which will be used to support mental health services for school children.

"This generous donation from IKEA will help us improve safety measures so students can continue to receive services face to face when they need them," said Abderholden. "Or when in-person services aren’t an option, they can get connected to school-linked mental health services through telemedicine.”

Counselors instinctively know more people are struggling with their emotions during the pandemic, yet they’re not seeking help. Part of it is because they’re waiting to see a counselor face-to-face.

"Telehealth has changed the landscape of the mental health system," said Julie Hanenburg with Lighthouse Family Services. "Initially in March, most of the families we were working with declined mental health services. They wanted to wait until in-person services were available again. In the last several weeks we’ve noticed people are much more accepting of mental health which is amazing."

But the first step is simply reaching out.

"So help is just a text away," said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. "Minnesota has a crisis text line and its 24-7 emergency service of you or someone you know is experiencing a psychiatric or mental health crisis. All you have to do is text MN to 741741."