Coping during a crisis: The importance of maintaining mental wellness

During a video visit, a provider from Sanford Health will ask about symptoms, discuss treatment plans, order a prescription or let a patient know if they should visit a clinic for further evaluation and/or testing. Submitted photo.

BEMIDJI -- As the coronavirus pandemic continues, healthcare providers are reminding the community to not just take care of their body physically, but to manage mental wellness, too.

To help community members do so, mental health services are still available, although in different ways than usual.

"I think the overwhelming message right now is we want to continue to provide all of the baseline services that you would normally get outside of a pandemic," said Dr. Jerrod Spring, a psychiatrist at Sanford Behavioral Health. "We've made quite a few changes in terms of access. We've gone to full capability in terms of video access and phone appointments. We also still have the ability to do walk-ins and our mobile crisis unit is still active."

Because of the ripple effects of the coronavirus, including Gov. Tim Walz implementing a stay-at-home order that's been extended through May 4, Spring said that more people may be experiencing added stress and anxiety. As a way to handle the situation, Spring said time management is important.

"Continue to find a balance, and continue to keep a routine," Spring said. "Make sure to separate your night from your day. If you're working from home, have a 'five o'clock leave.' Try to set that scheduled in there, to step away from work."


Spring said it's also important to stay engaged with coworkers and friends during this time.

"We are very fortunate to have the internet like we do right now. Use that in a healthy manner to connect," Spring said. "In terms of burnout, for those working from home and maybe doing a monotonous, day-to-day grind right now, that's something to be cautious of. Make sure you're putting in your meaningful activities, too, like hobbies and exercise, all of the things to give you balance."

To provide its mental health services, the Sanford Behavioral Health Center at 722 15th St. NW and the Sanford Health PrimeWest Residential Support Center at 3124 Hannah Ave. NW are remaining open.

Hope House continues its work

Another provider continuing its services is the Hope House. The program, starting in 1980, is located in southeast Bemidji and provides comprehensive, community-based support for persons with serious and/or persistent mental illnesses.

"Our program serves people with long-term mental health issues," said Robin Wold, director of the program. "Typically, our job has been to assist people in their home and in the community. We now do our services by phone. If there is a dire need, we will go out and assist, but for the most part, our meetings are by phone at this time."

The facility is still open, but only on a more urgent basis.

"We're not offering activities at this time, such as group sessions and social recreational activities that for some people helps fill their days," Wold said. "Each person who does come in, they know that they need to not have a fever. They also need to wash their hands, maintain social distancing and practice those kinds of things."

According to Wold, while the Hope House hadn't been expecting a pandemic, it has spent years preparing for a potential disaster.


"In 2011, the state of Minnesota had a government shutdown and we were closed for about two and a half months," Wold said. "That was quite devastating for us. The hospitalization skyrocketed, and we had a client suicide that year. We didn't want that to happen again, so over the last nine years we've been working on how to manage a disaster when they occur, although we didn't anticipate a pandemic."

The Hope House is available at (218) 444-6748. The Sanford Behavioral Health Center in Bemidji can be reached at (218) 333-2200. The Sanford PrimeWest center is available at (218) 333-2300.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America can be reached at (240) 485-1001 and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is (800) 273-8255.

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