Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center providers give advice on how to handle anxiety, fears amid COVID-19 concerns

Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center providers give advice on how to handle anxiety, fears amid COVID-19 concerns

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COVID-19 is having an impact on people of all ages, whether they are exposed to the virus or not. The impact is both clear in their daily lives, along with in the privacy of their mental health.

“It is important to recognize that kids of all ages are aware of what is happening right now and the adults in their world are responsible for filtering the information they are getting and to help them make meaning of what they are hearing,” Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center providers Lori Kuenn, Jen Whetstone and Andy Bohlman said in a statement.

They shared a quote from a colleague: “Kids are great observers but not so great interpreters.”

Both adults and children are surrounded by constant information and news about the pandemic, they said.

They explained that it might be the natural response for adults to use logic and theories with children, but it’s important to help them with their fear and anxiety they might be feeling, along with teaching them how to limit the spread of the virus and comforting them by letting them know people are attempting to discover a solution.

The providers said that technology can be very beneficial with helping to continue to connect people with each other to fill their social needs.

Whetstone said that HVMHC school-linked mental health therapists and skill providers have recently come together to discuss the pandemic.

She shared that some worried about children starting to feel angry because of the impacts the disease is having on their daily lives, which they believe might lead to xenophobia because of the virus’s origin in China.

Whetstone said that the providers are aware that children and teenagers are worried about cancellations, such as proms and graduations.

“These may be things that some may think, ‘Why would anyone worry about those things in the midst of a pandemic?’ These are significant milestones throughout developmental stages,” she said. “And we won’t know if these things are bothering some of our young people unless we ask. There are many warnings about isolation related to the older population, which is very important. We also have countless youth out there now mostly communicating via technology, or maybe not much at all. Check in with young people, often. Schedule time with them to do so if needed.”

Whetstone said the providers discussed that: “If kids are worried and you believe it is causing disruptions in their ability to enjoy daily life, limit ‘worry time’ to 10 minutes where you have them tell you their worries, you write them on slips of paper, validate how they are feeling and put them in a jar and seal them up, and then move on together to do something fun like play a game together. Or rip the slips up, crumple and throw away, etc.”

HVMHC staff members are going past just recommendations for helping themselves and their patients, though, amid COVID-19 concerns.

In-person services are no longer available at the Winona, Red Wing, Wabasha, Rushford and Caledonia, but telephone and telemedicine options are available for appointments. Injections are available in Winona and Red Wing. The medication clinic and representative payee services are still available.

For more information about HVMHC and its response to COVID-19 concerns, visit www.hvmhc.org or call 1-800-657-6777.

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