Mental health: What the state and Boone County are doing to help residents

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Local health experts have confirmed a need for mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic. State and local agencies have responded with the creation of a website offering free mental health resources and the opportunity to donate resources to alleviate common stressors, such as food insecurity.

“Each and every one of us are definitely experiencing just completely unprecedented times,” Boone County Health Dept. Public Health Educator Claire Haughton said. “Our routines that we’ve come to know and expect have completely gone out the window, and so there really is no manual that tells you how to react to things.”

Haughton said Indiana residents are experiencing an unprecedented crisis which “can cause a lot of mental stress.”

In response, on April 27 the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration launched a new website, BeWellIndiana.org, that provides Hoosiers with free mental health resources. The site aims to help people with the increase in anxiety, depression and other mental health issues caused by the pandemic.

To help individuals and families cope, the site offers resources and recommendations, including home-schooling tips, ways to work from home, information on coping with a job loss and how to address medical questions and concerns. The administration also assists with insurance, unemployment, child care and food insecurity.

Initially, BeWellIndiana.org will focus on mental health challenges caused by COVID-19, but it will evolve as a resource beyond the current crisis, according to state officials.

Hoosiers can visit BeWellIndiana.org to find expert-backed resources curated by the FSSA’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction, including information ranging from coping mechanisms, crisis counseling, how to self-monitor for signs of stress, domestic violence resources, substance-use disorder and recovery and tips for helping children, youth and teens.

Videos featuring medical experts, persons in recovery and Indiana clinicians addressing specific mental health topics also are available on the site.

For Hoosiers experiencing increased anxiety, mood swings, loss of sleep, change in sleep or uncertainty, BeWellIndiana.org also provides a link to simple self-assessments, offered by Mental Health America, to help users determine if they could benefit from seeking mental health support, but the immediate results are not to be used as a medical diagnosis. The free mental health screenings also can be accessed online at mhanational.org.

“It is imperative that we recognize how our mental health is affected by this pandemic,” Gov. Eric Holcomb stated. “I am proud of the public/private collaboration and expertise from so many of our partners captured in this single resource. BeWellIndiana.org is a reflection of the care and concern our fellow Hoosiers have for one another.”

Local agencies have responded by offering a variety of mental health resources.

Mental Health America of Boone County offers its assistance hotline for people to report potential abuse. The organization also offers child care for essential workers and provides free weekend meals to families. It also has offered webinars covering everything from domestic abuse to shopping tips.

Mental Health America of Boone County’s CEO Pascal Fettig said he’s concerned about the number of people reporting that they are suffering from mental health conditions for the first time.

“They don’t know what to do,” Fettig said. “Their anxiety is going up. Their depression is showing signs (of worsening). Kids are being basically shut in as well and are rising in their undesirable behavior, so I’m worried about their mental health.

“Mental health is once again being put in the back seat, and that’s a big concern. We need people to be ready to do some more talking about mental health.”

In addition, Inwell Integrative Wellness offers telehealth and in-person services. InWell also has stayed connected with local schools to serve children and Witham Health Services to connect clients to appropriate mental health resources. In addition, Aspire Indiana offers virtual services, helping new clients who are seeking help for the first from their own home. Its 24-hour hotline is still available, as is its job program.

Cummins Behavioral Health Systems is offering telehealth services. Its crisis hotline is available, too, as is its virtual youth and parent support groups.

Prevent Child Abuse Boone County has worked to raise awareness of child abuse and has worked with current foster children to ensure they have the resources needed to use eLearning.

Mental Health America of Boone County and many other local agencies
are helping residents experiencing mental health conditions during the pandemic. (Photo by Jarred Meeks)

Reducing mental health stressors

Local agencies are working to alleviate common stressors that contribute to mental health issues.

“Everyone that has jumped in and helped with food is helping lower the anxiety because, you know, finding out where your next meal is coming from is going to raise your anxiety,” Mental Health America of Boone County CEO Pascal Fettig said. “And if you’re providing for a family of four, it’s going to raise your anxiety and raise your frustration, stress level, and that’s going to lead to more domestic violence. That’s going to lead to more mental health issues.”

To date, the community has responded by providing several locations for individuals and families to pick up free meals. Lebanon, Western Boone and Zionsville schools have all offered food packages for Boone County families. The Boys & Girls Club of Boone County, Love, Inc., Shalom House and the Boone County Caring Center have all provided Boone County residents with free food, totaling thousand of free meals each week, during the pandemic.

The ARC of Greater Boone County offers free grocery pick-up and delivery and has redeployed staff to assist clients who need support at home. The Boone County Cancer Society has continued to offer services to clients, such as grocery pick-up and delivery. And the Boone County Senior Services, Inc., offers public transportation and in-home services, in addition to grocery pick-up and delivery services.

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