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Nov. 17, 2020
This paid piece is sponsored by Sioux Falls Seminary.
Some have never sought mental health care before.
Some have sought treatment for a long time but are finding this year even more challenging.
Some have little or no ability to pay for help.
And some are among the most prominent people in the region.
They’re all contributing to an increased demand for mental healthcare, which Sioux Falls Psychological Services is helping meet.
“The need is high right now,” said Jennifer Helkenn, a licensed psychologist and co-director of Sioux Falls Psychological Services, which is part of Sioux Falls Seminary.
“We’re hearing from patients with generalized feelings of anxiety, tension, stress, depression or irritability and from those who are having difficulty sleeping, coping or finding energy and interest in doing things.”
People are experiencing parenting struggles with school changes and children’s mental health needs, she added. Relationship issues also have increased.
“I think that people are tiring of the situation, and there’s a sense of fatigue that comes with it.”
Issues that people usually might cope with on their own have become bigger challenges, she continued.
“We all have resiliency, but in a year when there’s been so much, the things that people might normally cope with become larger issues or create more difficulty.”
The team at Sioux Falls Psychological Services has experienced increased demand but is still able to help.
The multidisciplinary group of mental health professionals includes two dozen therapists, psychologists, social workers, counselors and staff with a broad range of specialties for couples, families and individuals of all ages:
Autumn often can bring challenges with mental health, with less daylight and the holiday season. This is also more pronounced this year, Helkenn said.
“The pandemic has brought opportunities for social interaction outdoors, but with less daylight and colder weather approaching, that also will be more challenging,” she said. “And I’m hearing people talk more about the holiday season and what that might look like. People like their traditions; they enjoy spending time with family over the holidays. They will have to make hard decisions this year, and those will be difficult conversations to have.”
Nate Helling, Sioux Falls Seminary’s vice president of operations and CFO, had an illuminating conversation with a surgeon recently about mental health care.
“Surgeons don’t get mental health care,” the surgeon told him. “That’s not what we do.”
Helling had a different perspective.
“There are surgeons who seek mental health care, and that’s probably a good thing,” he said.
The same goes for business owners and executives. Many are or have been clients at Sioux Falls Psychological Services.
“Leadership can be lonely, especially in a time when everyone looks to you for the solution,” Helling said. “Having someone to talk with is valuable.”
Challenges extend to all levels of organizations, Helkenn added.
“As COVID has become more prevalent, it’s impacted everyone,” she said.
“Systems are being impacted. There are challenges of being short-staffed, especially in health care, but it can affect any industry. Resources are strained, and people are dealing with all kinds of personal issues related to the pandemic. So along with the usual stresses of life, this adds another layer.”
Sioux Falls Psychological Services also has done virtual group sessions with rural health care providers during the pandemic.
“They invite their team to come in, and it’s not uncommon to have 15 people in a session. They can process together, with expert help, what they’re dealing with in the medical field,” Helling said.
The team also serves those who don’t have an ability to pay.
“Because we utilize our Sioux Falls Seminary master’s-level counseling students, we’re able to see people who don’t have insurance or can only pay a small fee. Services are provided by a student who is supervised by a licensed therapist. Students gain hours of experience toward licensure, and clients receive the care they need,” Helling said.
Sioux Falls Psychological Services has an office on the central Sioux Falls campus of Sioux Falls Seminary, and it also runs Platte-based River Counseling Services, which provides mental health care to residents of south-central South Dakota. Secure telemental health capabilities make these services available virtually to individuals across the state.
Because of the pandemic, virtual visits have accelerated this year.
“It’s helped the barrier to entry,” Helling said. “You don’t have to drive to a clinic, sit in a waiting room, wonder if you’re going to run into someone. Confidentiality is enhanced, so it’s really just you and the therapist. Every person is just one click away from being able to get mental health care.”
While most people think of mental health care occurring in a therapist’s office, virtual visits are just as effective, Helkenn said.
“It’s been a benefit to people in many ways. You can continue your mental health care while social distancing, even while in quarantine, and people adjust to virtual visits fairly easily.”
The therapy journey looks different for every individual, she added.
“For some it’s a long-term relationship, but for others it might be very brief. They might find relief from a time or two of contact.”
She encourages individuals to visit and look through the profiles of therapists to help determine who could be a good fit.
Many individuals self-refer, so calling 605-334-2696 or making contact through the website is all it takes to get connected.
“You might find yourself thinking ‘should I or shouldn’t I?’ when it comes to seeking mental health services,” Helling said.
“If you find yourself debating whether or not to make the call, you should call. You will be glad you did.”
“You might find yourself thinking ‘should I or shouldn’t I?’ when it comes to seeking mental health services. If you find yourself debating whether or not to make the call, you should call.”