North Iowa’s communities, schools and families are still facing challenges and uncertainty imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. After coping for months when so many things were different, north Iowans now face decisions about COVID-19 vaccinations and other safety precautions that may result in worry, stress or other reactions.
“That is why it is so important for our friends, family members and colleagues to help each other,” said David Brown, behavioral health state specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
“September is National Suicide Prevention Month and is a reminder that everyone needs to understand the warning signs of chronic stress or when a person may be contemplating suicide,” Brown said. Such signs could include updating a will, giving away prized possessions, or posting Facebook messages about death. When a friend, family member or colleague notices such signs, they need to act boldly to engage the person they are concerned about. They need to work together with this person to help them make the choice to stay alive and accept professional help.
In response to such concerns, ISU Extension and Outreach continues to offer Mental Health First Aid. The course provides adults with tools they can use to identify when someone might be struggling with a mental health and/or substance use problem. Participants also will learn a five-step action plan for how to help in crisis and non-crisis situations, as well as how to connect adults and youth to appropriate support and resources when necessary.
“Everyone can benefit from taking a mental health first aid course, from agribusiness professionals, producers, paramedics, and faith leaders to teachers, mothers, fathers, siblings and friends. Learning more about mental health can help reduce the stigma associated with behavioral health problems, recognize signs of trouble and help people get the assistance they need,” said Brown.
The cost for the Mental Health First Aid course is $75. However, agribusiness professionals, producers, commodity group members, bankers, and veterinarian and vet techs can register at no cost for any of these programs by using the code AGPRO when registering. Rural youth professionals, such as 4-H or FFA staff and volunteers, and youth pastors can register at no cost by using the code YOUTHPRO when registering. To find local classes or to register, go to https://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/MHFA.
For more information, feel free to contact Demi Johnson, behavioral health program coordinator, at [email protected].
Other resources and programs
COVID Recovery Iowa offers a variety of services to anyone affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual counselors and consultants provide counseling, family finance consultation, farm financial consultation, referral information and help finding resources for any Iowan seeking personal support. Iowans of all ages may join groups online for activities and learn creative strategies for coping with the effects of the pandemic. COVID Recovery Iowa will announce upcoming programs on the website and via all social media to help Iowans build coping skills, resilience and emotional support. To request support, go to https://www.COVIDrecoveryiowa.org or call the Iowa Warm Line at 1-844-775-9276.
Iowa Concern, offered by ISU Extension and Outreach, provides confidential access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics. With a toll-free phone number, live chat capabilities and a website, Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week at no charge. To reach Iowa Concern, call 800-447-1985; language interpretation services are available. Or visit the website, https://www.extension.iastate.edu/iowaconcern/, to live chat with a stress counselor one-on-one in a secure environment. Or email an expert regarding legal, finance, stress, or crisis and disaster issues.