Since 1949, the month of May has been designated Mental Health Awareness Month, with the goal of not only raising awareness of mental health conditions but eliminating the stigma associated with those who have a mental illness. Millions of Americans suffer from mental health problems, and many felt the effects of the isolation and uncertainty caused by COVID-19.
For example, about 84% of psychologists who treat anxiety disorders said they have seen an increased demand for anxiety treatment since the start of the pandemic. Demand for depression treatment is also on the rise – 72% of psychologists who treat depressive disorders have seen an increase in cases. More patients are also struggling with sleep-wake disorders and addictive disorders.
Those living in the four-county area we serve in central Minnesota are no exception to these statistics–in 2020, six youth died by suicide, making up 13% of all youth suicide deaths in Minnesota. And youth don’t have the highest suicide rate. That sad statistic belongs to the elderly, where the suicide rate for those 74 to 84 is 18.43 per 100,000, and for those 85 and over, 20.86 per 100,000.
COVID also provided the perfect storm. More people need mental health care while, at the same time, understaffing greatly impacted the capacity and efficiency of mental health programs, services, and facilities. As the pandemic eases United Way of Central Minnesota has big plans that include:
- Facilitating right-time, right-place, and right-service offerings for youth
- Equipping and supporting caregivers of all stripes: parents, guardians, and teachers
- Promoting wellness for life for seniors
- Removing community barriers
We Offer a Helping Hand at United Way of Central Minnesota
We believe health is a holistic journey. Maintaining health involves a 360-degree approach for each individual at every stage of life. We address issues such as:
- Mental health
- Access to health care
- Healthy meals for seniors & students
- Domestic violence
- Sexual assault
- Suicide prevention
Help for Youth Mental Health
Not fitting in has always been a problem. You may have encountered it yourself when young. You might think it’s no big deal. But that was before social media increased the pressure to look like, talk like, think like, and just plain be like everyone else. This creates a great deal of social anxiety and issues with self-worth. This is made worse if a young person has physical or socio-economic differences from those who are accepted and celebrated.
In the U.S., the suicide rate is about 13.48 per 100,000 people. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24, and the rate has been rising since 2007, increasing by nearly 60%.
The warning signs of suicide often parallel those for depression: losing interest in favorite activities, withdrawing from family and friends, neglecting appearance, increased or new substance abuse, and acting out. Some other common signs to watch for are:
- Unnecessary risk-taking
- Lack of response to praise
- Increased anger, rage, or irritability
- Mood swings
- Focusing problems
- Running away
- Expressing hopelessness
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits - this could mean either sleeping too little or too much and eating too little or too much
- Talking, posting, or obsessing about death or wanting to die
- More physical complaints often linked to emotional distress, such as stomachaches, headaches, and extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- Making plans or efforts toward completing suicide or penning a suicide note
- Giving or throwing away important or favorite possessions
At United Way of Central Minnesota, we raise the conversation and we raise the bar around childhood mental health for parents and caregivers. Working with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, we address these issues and offer solutions to the cries of mental anguish and pain coming from the young voices of our community.
Help for Parents
Conscious parenting is a term used to describe a parenting style that focuses more on the parent and how mindfulness can affect parenting choices. Rooted in a combination of Eastern-style philosophy and Western-style psychology, it asks that instead of striving to “fix” your child, you should look inward at yourself. Conscious parenting views children as independent, still-developing beings who can teach their parents to become more self-aware.
This means that conscious parenting requires continual giving– of yourself, your time, and your emotions. You give up mental real estate for ongoing thoughts, worries, plans, and strategies concerning your children. Other caregivers do the same.
But it is impossible to give from an empty tank. As caregivers and parents, you need to pay attention to your own mental health detox and healing. This is especially true as you invest in the young lives of your kids and adolescents who may be struggling with mental health issues.
For some, you know exactly what “Mom guilt” is, and caretakers of all types may experience the same intensity of emotions that cause crushing self-doubt, amplified by an unforgiving inner critic. Any weakened mental state by a caregiver needs relief and encouragement. We are here to offer mental health support to overcome such difficulties and offer parents and caregivers an experienced and empathetic place to recover and grow stronger.
Help for seniors
As people age, they may feel left behind as technology and culture quickly adapt and change to meet the desires and demands of younger generations. This leaves many seniors feeling as though they are invisible, and we are fighting to change this in Central Minnesota communities.
For example, we address food insecurity for those 65 and older. Many seniors struggle with the rising costs of food, and often can’t access transportation to get groceries, and some older adults are physically inactive due to medical issues and are vulnerable to injury and disease.
But we’re not just here to provide access to healthy and affordable food. We want to reduce the damaging effects of depression and mental health decline caused by chronic isolation.
At United Way of Central Minnesota, seniors, children, and families can access quality health care and wellness programs only through the engagement of our compassion-driven community members.
This Mental Health Awareness Month, you can help by becoming an advocate, donating your time as a volunteer, or by a financial donation that helps us fulfill our mission. And if you or someone you know needs help with their mental health, please reach out by calling 211.