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Mental Health Minnesota Announces “CONNECT” Initiative to Fight Social Isolation

Mental Health Minnesota is pleased to announce the kick-off of CONNECT, an initiative aimed at fighting the social isolation many people in Minnesota are feeling as a result of social distancing/COVID-19.

The CONNECT initiative provides social connections by phone between volunteers and people who may be struggling with social isolation, loneliness, stress, anxiety or worry during the social distancing related to COVID-19. In addition to connecting, volunteers will also be able to provide people with information and resources to help address any mental health concerns if needed.

Long-term social isolation and/or loneliness can be detrimental to both mental health and physical health, according to a number of studies, one of which noted that the impact of long-term loneliness on physical health was equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day.

“For many people across Minnesota, social distancing and “staying at home” is increasing levels of anxiety, stress, and worry. It’s our hope that our organization and volunteers can help address that,” said Shannah Mulvihill, Mental Health Minnesota’s executive director. “We’re all making big adjustments in our lives, and it’s really difficult. But social distancing does not have to mean social isolation and loneliness.”

Anyone in Minnesota can sign up to receive phone calls from Mental Health Minnesota volunteers at www.mentalhealthmn.org. Those interested in serving as volunteers can also sign up on the organization’s website.

Discover more mental health and COVID-19/social distancing resources. 

Minnesotans Encouraged to Take Care of Mental Health During Social Distancing

As the number of COVID-19 cases increases daily in Minnesota, across the United States and around the world, so do levels of anxiety, stress, and worry. For many, these feelings are compounded by social distancing.

It’s important to protect the health and safety of everyone, and the only way to do that is to prevent and slow the spread of the disease through social distancing and other quarantine measures. Yet while we protect our physical health during this pandemic, we can’t forget to address our mental health.

“Nationally, online screenings for anxiety have increased by nearly 20% over the last few weeks, and for many, social distancing inevitably means isolation and loneliness,” said Shannah Mulvihill, Mental Health Minnesota’s executive director. “It’s essential that people take care of their mental health as well as their physical health at this time, and we are working to share information, resources and suggestions that can help with that.”

Suggestions for managing mental health concerns during COVID-19/social distancing:

  1. Check-in with others and connect through more than just email, text, and social media. Call or video chat with your friends and family to make sure they are okay and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
  2. Identify things you can do to reduce stress and anxiety. Consider what has helped you handle stress in the past, and make adjustments as needed to do those things (i.e. connecting with friends via Facetime instead of over coffee, exercise/yoga videos online instead of a group class, etc.)
  3. Maintain structure in your day. Many people are now working remotely and/or are at home with their children. Creating structure/schedule in your day can help daily life to feel more “normal.”
  4. Get outside if you can, even if it’s just in your yard, on a balcony, or just opening a window. Fresh air and sunshine can be very helpful in improving overall mood and decreasing feelings of depression and anxiety.
  5. Take breaks from social media and news articles that are focused on COVID-19. While it’s important to stay informed, too much information can be overwhelming.
  6. If you’re concerned about your mental health, take a free, anonymous mental health screening at mentalhealthmn.org. If you screen positive for a mental health condition, you’ll receive resources and information about next steps.
  7.  Know the resources that can help you, including the following:

For more resources related to mental health and COVID-19/social distancing, visit mentalhealthmn.org.

COVID-19: Make Mental Health a Priority Too

“40 percent of American adults say they are socially isolated.” Our Executive Director, Shannah Mulvihill, discussed with Fox 9 Buzz on March 17, 2020, the need to make mental health not just physical health, a priority during this COVID-19 emergency period. With our country on lockdown and social distancing measures in effect, those who already feel isolated are struggling. In fact, we’ve seen a 20 percent increase in anxiety screenings across the country over the last few weeks.

Shannah recommends checking in with others through not just text or email, but through phone calls and video chats. Practicing self-care to reduce stress, worry and anxiety on a regular basis is important too, as is adding structure to your day. And getting outside, even in our backyards or balconies (or just opening a window!) to get some fresh air and sunshine can also help!

Connecting with our Minnesota Warmline can also benefit those experiencing increased feelings of isolation.

Mental Health Day on the Hill

Make your voice heard! Join us on March 12th to advocate for children and adults living with mental illnesses and their families at Mental Health Day on the Hill 2020 at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul. Over 300 mental health advocates will gather, listen to legislative leaders, and make some noise in support of building our mental health system…And we want you to be a part of it! The day will start with an issue/education session, then we will move on to the rally and visits with legislators.

We need your voice…Find out more about this event here!

Minnesota Warmline Receives $75,000 Grant

The Otto Bremer Trust has awarded our Minnesota Warmline with a $75,000 grant! We are honored and humbled by the support, which will help our organization continue to serve Minnesotans who may be struggling with loneliness, isolation, and other mental health concerns. Our Warmline’s Certified Peer Specialists, who have first-hand experience living with a mental illness, are professionally trained to listen and help callers prevent mental health crises B4Stage4. In 2019, our Minnesota Warmline responded to more than 12,000 calls and texts from 69 counties across Minnesota.

The news of the grant follows a funding commitment from Blue Cross Blue Shield in late 2019 to support the program.

“We deeply value the support of these organizations, and also appreciate their recognition that Mental Health Minnesota has developed as a model of peer support that is making a difference in the lives of so many people,” said Shannah Mulvihill, Mental Health Minnesota’s executive director.

Thank you Otto Bremer Trust for aiding us in expanding this vital, life-saving program!

Mental Health at Work Matters

 

Our Executive Director, Shannah Mulvihill, visited with a number of Congressional offices in Washington, D.C. in February 2020, and also attended a Mental Health America Conference (MHA) to learn about the Bell Seal for Workplace Mental Health, MHA’s new national employer certification program. We look forward to helping lead Minnesota employer involvement in this initiative! The goal is to drive workplace commitment to mental health support from the top-down, emphasizing how it can greatly impact the financial, emotional, and social success and growth of an organization.

Because all workplaces are different, an employer can aspire to receive recognition at four levels – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Through the certification process, employers will have the opportunity to discuss the relationship between mental health and the following goals:

  • Attract potential employees and increase retention;
  • Improve employee engagement and productivity;
  • Reduce health care costs and lost revenue due to poor workplace mental health;
  • Address concerns with presenteeism and absenteeism;
  • Reduce the rate of employee turnover; and
  • Identify gaps and learn about resources to support employee mental health.

An employer will be assessed—and recognition ultimately determined by—the following five categories:

  • Workplace Culture
  • Health Insurance & Benefits
  • Employee Perks & Programs
  • Legal & Ethical Compliance
  • Leadership & Community Engagement

Learn more about MHA’s application process.

Successful “Mind Your Health” Event Held on February 15

It was exciting to connect with hundreds of people at the Mind Your Health: Healthy Mind, Healthy Body event on Saturday, February 15, 2020 at the Mall of America. Thank you to our volunteers, partners and everyone who attended! Our Outreach Coordinator, Samantha Hedden, discussed our B4Stage4 approach to mental health prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery with attendees. Two of our ambassadors, Sam and Ryan, were there to share their stories of recovery. It was definitely an inspiring day and it was a wonderful opportunity to provide hope and support to so many Minnesotans!

May is Mental Health Month!

 

For the past 70 years, Mental Health America and its affiliates across the county have led observance of May is Mental Health Month.

As an affiliate of Mental Health America, Mental Health Minnesota is proud to participate in the national effort to promote positive mental health, as well as encourage a #B4Stage4 approach to mental health through early screening, early identification of symptoms, and early treatment to promote recovery.

A variety of resources and tools are available on the Mental Health America website, and can be found at www.mentalhealthamerica.net.

 

Mental Health Minnesota Awarded SAMHSA Capacity Building/Technical Assistance

Mental Health Minnesota is pleased to announce that the organization has been selected as a recipient of SAMHSA’s 2019 capacity building/technical assistance through the Bringing Recovery Supports to Scale Technical Assistance Center Strategy (BRSS TACS).

Mental Health Minnesota was chosen as one of just 25 recipients across the country. Approximately 160 organizations applied.

The focus of the technical assistance provided to Mental Health Minnesota will be to expand the organization’s work to engage the voice of lived mental health experience in public policy, as well as promote the use of peer-to-peer work in the provision of mental health services.

“We have worked hard to build our Mental Health Ambassador program, which provides opportunities for our communities to hear stories of mental health recovery and reduce stigma that continues to exist around mental health, and we now have 200+ ambassadors across the state. The next step is to expand opportunities for our ambassadors to engage with decision makers at every level to ensure that the voice of lived experience is heard related to funding and policy making,” said Shannah Mulvihill, Mental Health Minnesota’s executive director. “We are thrilled to be a BRSS TACS award recipient, and believe this technical assistance will help us continue to scale our work up and out, and increase our organizational capacity to ensure our success.”

Minnesota Warmline Takes Record Number of Calls in 2018

The Minnesota Warmline took nearly 10,800 calls and texts in 2018, more than double the number of calls in 2016, just two years before. The calls came from 73 counties across Minnesota.

“We are honored to be a trusted resource for help and support for so many people across Minnesota,” said Shannah Mulvihill, executive director. “Our Warmline staff is amazing and care so much about helping our callers, and the peer-to-peer approach used with this service is both unique and helpful to so many of our callers.”

The Minnesota Warmline provides people across Minnesota with an opportunity to connect with others, find support, reduce social isolation, and talk about their concerns in a peer-to-peer environment. For many people, the Warmline is an important tool that helps them before they reach a point of crisis and supports their mental health recovery.

Calls are answered by a team of professionally trained Certified Peer Specialists, who have first hand experience living with a mental health condition. If a caller is in need of more help, Warmline staff can directly connect him or her to the nearest county crisis line.

The Minnesota Warmline is open Monday through Saturday, 5 PM to 10 PM. For more information, click here.