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Blaine’s Bulletin: Missouri’s Mental Health

Washington, May 29, 2020

We are all too well aware of the toll the coronavirus crisis has taken on our country, but it has been more than just physically. The economic fallout from this pandemic has put the mental health of Americans across the nation at risk. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and this year it is more important than ever to acknowledge the need for mental health among Missourians.

While the actual virus has rightfully been of major concern, especially for the at-risk population, mental health issues have also seen a large spike over the last few months as a result of the shutdown. One mental health hotline here in Missouri has seen double the amount of calls since the coronavirus crisis began. Fears of the virus remain, but more calls have centered around support with finances, getting the rent paid and people’s ability to feed their families. Unfortunately, the numbers for suicides, substance abuse and domestic abuse have all gone up over the last few months, making this a critical time to focus on the mental health of our fellow Americans. Now that we are thankfully seeing over a 50% decline in the number of coronavirus hospitalizations nationwide, we can put more of an emphasis on mental health and people struggling getting the help they need.

Fortunately, we live in a time where many things can be done with technology and over the phone. If anyone you know is struggling right now, the Missouri Department of Mental Health (DMH) is an incredible resource with numbers and ways to chat online with professionals who can help. Another resource, the Federal Disaster Distress helpline, a toll-free crisis hotline, can be reached at 800-985-5990 or you can text “TALKWITHUS” to 66746. This line is answered by mental health professionals who can either help over the phone or connect you with the right people here in Missouri. More helpful resources can be found on the DMH website at dmh.mo.gov. United Way’s 2-1-1 number is also a great resource for people who need help with things like childcare, food pantries and utilities. And for Missouri veterans and their families seeking confidential mental health assistance, the Veterans’ Crisis Line can be reached by calling 1-800-273-8255 and pressing “1.”Asking for help can be a scary thing, but the great people who work at these agencies and answer these calls are more than happy to do it.

While Missouri recovers from the economic interruption caused by the COVID-19 crisis, we are seeing businesses bounce back and find ways to adapt. Businesses are opening their doors and taking precautions to keep people feeling safe like hiring medical staff for especially busy days -- like this past Memorial Day weekend -- taking temperatures of patrons at the door, and allowing staff who don’t feel comfortable working to take the day off.  It is going to take some patience and time, but we will be back and be fully open again.