ROCHESTER, Minn. — Medical health providers are getting creative in how they provide services and are gearing up for increased need as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

“We are anticipating way more need in the future here,” said Sean Kinsella, executive director of NAMI Southeast Minnesota in Rochester, noting that with increased job loss, anxiety is likely to increase.

Late last week, Kinsella said the organization was still working to pull resources together and move offerings like support groups to web-based platforms.

On Thursday, March 18, Family Service Rochester announced the launch of new telehealth counseling services. The services are available for new and existing patients. Counseling sessions can be provided via internet connection on a smartphone, tablet or computer. The process, which is all completed from one's home, starts with a phone call and completing a few online forms before the patient is scheduled to talk with a mental health professional.

Ashleigh H. Dowis, director of clinical services for Family Service Rochester, said last week that the organization hadn’t seen a great influx of new clients but the new service may allow for more people to feel comfortable accessing counseling.

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“Our hope with being able to provide telehealth is that people do feel like they have a place to come to learn how to manage what is going on right now in our world,” she said.

But the general public isn't the only group whose mental health is being taxed.

Co-chairman of Mayo Clinic’s Division of Integrative Behavioral Health, psychologist Dr. Craig Sawchuk, said he and his peers are cognizant of the stress that the pandemic places on health care providers and teams.

“Given the degree of uncertainty going on these days, the dramatic and sudden changes in our just day-to-day routines, even the new stressors, ‘is my job going to be there for me in the next couple of weeks,’ we are also fielding a number of new patient requests,” Sawchuk said late last week.

So what are people supposed to do?

Staying mentally healthy

Sawchuk, Dowis and Kinsella have some recommendations.

Keep your daily routine as best as you can. That means get up at the same time, get showered, get dressed and go to bed at night like you would during normal circumstances.

“Given the sudden and abrupt change and our normal daily schedules being blown out of the water, it’s amazing how therapeutic normalcy can be,” Sawchuk said.

For those who aren’t working, “create a schedule and structure,” Kinsella said. He recommends creating a list of five things you want to accomplish that day and making sure one of those things is self-care, such as meditation or exercise.

Stay connected but also disconnected, Sawchuk recommends. Staying connected to social support is incredibly helpful and therapeutic during difficult times, he said. With modern technology, it is easy to reach out to someone but it is important to make sure that those people you may be reaching out to bring you up, rather than down.

“It is OK to disengage from watching, reading, listening to news and news stories about the coronavirus,” Kinsella said. “If you are inundated with that, it can create a secondary traumatic stress.”

Both Kinsella and Sawchuk recommend limiting news consumption. Stay informed, but not plugged in 24/7.

Sawchuk said to look for ways that you can just increase positive emotions during the day, whether that be through what you are watching, listening to or doing.

Mental health resources

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Nacional de Prevención del Suicidio: 1-888-628-9454

Anxiety and Depression Association of America: www.adaa.org

Family Service Rochester: www.familyservicerochester.org/

Reviews for Mental Health Apps can be found at PsyberGuide www.psyberguide.org/apps/

Minnesota Warmline: A peer-to-peer line for mental health recovery and social isolation, open Monday-Saturday, 5 PM to 10 PM. Toll-free at 877.404.3190 or text “support” to 85511.

Mental Health Helpline: Connections to mental health treatment and services across the state, open Monday-Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM. Toll-free at 800.862.1799 or via online chat at www.mentalhealthmn.org.

Minnesota Crisis Text Line: Text “MN” to 741741

Minnesota County Crisis Response: Search by county or zip code at www.mentalhealthmn.org

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