By Bruce Karnick [email protected] The COVID 19 pandemic has affected us all in ways none of us like. The physical aspect has been discussed what seems like thousands of times in the past year, …
By Bruce Karnick
The COVID 19 pandemic has affected us all in ways none of us like. The physical aspect has been discussed what seems like thousands of times in the past year, but what about the mental affect it has had on us? Humans are innately social; we need interaction with others both emotionally and physically to feel right. This is a big reason the term “social distancing” is absolutely awful. We NEED to be social and we can still be physically safe by keeping our physical distance in social situations, but that only satisfies part of our social need. With all the separation that has been forced on us from the lockdowns, the physical distancing, and businesses and schools being closed or limited in capacity, we are still suffering.
That suffering is something many adults are better equipped to handle than our youth and that has many experts worried. Suicides and self-harm incidents are up all over the nation, something the United Way of Hastings wants to help prevent before it becomes a problem in Hastings, especially in youth. UWH Program Manager Jane Neumiller-Bustad spoke to the Journal about the FREE upcoming program for area residents.
“The week of February 22nd through 26th we are offering a series of free mental health webinars. They will all be online so people will be able to attend via zoom, which is very convenient. Each webinar will be happening from 11am. to noon. We did that deliberately in hopes that it would be convenient for people with their lunch hours to be able to attend. Each webinar will be different,” Neumiller-Bustad stated.
“Really our target audience is here in Hastings and its parents, grandparents, caregivers. Teachers, youth workers, concerned citizens, anyone that is interested in the mental health of our young people as well as themselves, because some of our speakers are definitely going to be talking about taking care of ourselves as a way of helping to take care of our young people,” she added.
UWH is using their Helping Kids Succeed model as their guide for this event as well. That model was created by Derek Peterson after a series of teen tragedies hit Hastings back in 2012. Peterson will be a speaker on Friday.
The plan for the week is to have speakers that share practical, hands-on tips, ideas, and resources with those that sign up and attend. Again, the webinars are free, you can attend one or all of them, but you must pre-register. To register, visit www.unitedwayofhastings.org. Each day covers a different topic with approximately 40 minutes of the hour being designated as “presentation” time, leaving the last 10-20 minutes open for participants to ask questions.
Monday will be hosted by Neumiller-Bustad and Brady Erlandson. Erlandson is a Senior at Hastings High School and has been a member of the UWH YES team for nearly three years. They will be discussing how a healthy web of support strengthens mental health for both kids and parents.
Tuesday will feature Kate Bartlein. Bartlein leads the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s (NAMI) parent education and support projects in Dakota and Scott Counties as a project coordinator and parent educator. She works one on one with families to help navigate many aspects of special education and mental health care. Bartlein will cover how mental health is a big umbrella and help people know how to better ask for help by simplifying what to look for.
Wednesday’s host is Serene Bachman, a 19-year veteran of Dakota County’s Crisis unit. Bachman will provide additional details of how to identify they help you or a loved one may need and how to understand the range of resources that are available to you.
Thursday will bring together Sandy Woolsey and Carolyn Felty to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health: How to address depression, anxiety, addiction and other conditions. Both are involved in the School Based Mental Health program at Canvas Health. This program serves 29 schools across the metro including all the Hastings School District Schools. Felty has been part of the mental health field since 2004 specializing in providing mental health services to children and adolescents. Woolsey has been providing clinical therapy since 2000. She has provided individual, family and group therapy to youth and families in a variety of settings. They will focus on how the pandemic has affected our mental health due to the isolation and social uncertainty. Many of our youth are struggling with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, screens, vaping, etcetera and this presentation hopes to give practical ideas and resources for self-care and ways to support the young people in your life.
Friday, as mentioned earlier, will have Derek Peterson as the host. Peterson will be talking about what is working. What is working in your families and how you can build on that foundation. Peterson comes from a youth development background as a writer, teacher and advocate.
Neumiller-Bustad is excited about Friday and Peterson’s presentation, “His focus is very much on what’s working, and how do you build, how do you amplify what’s working, and he’s also talking now a little bit about story. How do you refine your story as a family? How do you reframe your story as an individual? How does your story and your web, how do they interact in order to help you strengthen your mental health? I think that’s gonna be just a really fascinating session. I’ve heard a little of him speaking on it previously, and I think it’s very interesting for folks. So we definitely are ending on a high note.”
For those that are interested in joining in on the webinars, they will run Monday through Friday starting February 22nd. Times are 11am to noon each day via a zoom link. You must pre-register, but that registration is free, and all are welcome. Visit www.unitedwayofhastings.org to learn more and to register.