At United Way partners with Goodhue County Mental Health Coalition and other health service providers to provide mental health support for all ages. This article, written by Sarah Knieff, originally ran in the July 14th edition of the Republican Eagle. We felt it was important enough to share here, in it's entirety with permission from The Republican Eagle.
Youth struggling with mental health ‘want someone to listen’
Kids want parents and other trusted adults to listen to them; That’s what Maggie Cichosz, community engagement specialist for Goodhue County Health and Human Services, and Samantha Kennedy, Fernbrook Family Center clinical director, said when asked how to help youth struggling with mental health. “We have seen a massive impact from COVID on mental health issues,” Cichosz said. “Kids are struggling, and they really just want someone to listen with an open mind, heart and [ear.]”
In Red Wing, Fernbrook has seen an increase in kids needing therapy during the last three years, resulting in a long waitlist. “We offer a multitude of targeted mental health services for families, but just like every provider in town, we have a long wait time for kids to get into our treatments,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy explained that the waitlist is mostly due to hiring issues and COVID-19 ramping up mental struggles. "With the pandemic, there has been an increase in stress and lack of routine,” she said. “You know, [kids] spent 2½ years at kind of the same level socially and emotionally since they weren’t in school being able to grow. And those same kids are now expected to act completely normal. That’s hard.”
While more and more kids need therapy, Fernbrook has been dealing with staffing struggles, much like the rest of America’s industries. “We are very picky with who we hire, we want someone who can make a difference in children’s lives, but at the same time, there are less licensed professionals in our field,” Kennedy said. “We aren’t sure exactly why, but this has hit us.”
At the county level, Cichosz said they also are experiencing increased wait times for families, but it’s only due to more patients. “I think everyone knows mental health resources are very, very limited everywhere,” she said. “But this is why we do school-linked mental health in all of the Red Wing schools.”
School-linked is a program provided through the county and places a therapist in each local school for students to access by a teacher or parent referral.
Some of those therapists come from Fernbrook. “We currently have therapists in Red Wing High School, Twin Bluff, Sunnyside and Burnside,” Kennedy said. “While waitlists are long, reaching out to school-based help is a great tool for parents. I also always say to parents to just offer empathy to their children. Kids need someone to listen to them without judgment.”
Cichosz and Kennedy agreed that parents should never ignore the warning signs that their child is struggling. “Some kids don’t want to talk to their parents about mental health and that’s OK,” Cichosz said. “This means it’s up to the parent or caregiver to begin a conversation. And remember, parents should solve the problem with the kid and not for them. Ask the child how they would like to receive help.”
According to the Goodhue County Mental Health School Resource Guide, the following are warning signs to watch out for:
- Inability to perform daily tasks like bathing, brushing teeth, brushing hair and changing clothes.
- Rapid mood swings, increased energy level, inability to stay still, pacing, suddenly depressed, withdrawn, suddenly happy or calm after period of depression.
- Increased agitation, verbal threats, violent or out of control behavior.
- Abusive behavior to self and others, including substance use or self-harm Isolation from school, work, family, friends.
- Loses touch with reality (psychosis) – unable to recognize family or friends, confused, strange ideas, thinks they’re someone they’re not, doesn’t understand what people are saying, hears voices, sees things that aren’t there.
“When talking with your child, be up front and honest with them,” Kennedy said. “A lot of the time, adults tend to want to sugarcoat things for kids and for those in older adolescence, this can seem like they are being talked down to.”
If the caregiver believes that the child is in a mental health crisis, they should use de-escalation techniques to keep the situation calm.
The resource guide recommends:
- Keep your voice calm.
- Avoid overreacting.
- Express support and concern.
- Avoid continuous eye contact.
- Ask how you can help.
- Keep stimulation level low.
- Move slowly.
- Offer options instead of trying to take control.
- Avoid touching the person unless you ask permission.
- Be patient.
- Gently announce actions before initiating them.
- Give them space; don’t make them feel trapped.
- Don’t make judgmental comments.
- Don’t argue or try to reason with the person.
“It really all comes back to listening in either a crisis situation or a less serious moment,” Cichosz said. “Listen, listen, listen. At the end of the day, be there for your child and make them feel loved.”
The county offers many resources through its Child & Family Collaborative – including grants for financial help – and parents can access those at www.gccfc.org/home.
Contact Fernbrook for more information about its services at fernbrook.org.
· Crisis Response of Southeast Minnesota: 1-844-CRISIS2
· Hope Coalition's Sexual Assault Crisis Line: 1-800-519-6690
· South East Regional Safe Harbor 24 Hour Crisis Line: (507) 289- 0636
· Suicide Prevention Hotline (English): 1-800-273-TALK
· Suicide Prevention Hotline (En Espanol): 1-888-628-9454
· Teen Crisis Line: (310) 855-4673
· The Trevor Project (LGBTQ Crisis & Suicide Hotline): 1-866-488-7386
· Trans Lifeline:1-877-565-8860