Mental health service providers offer COVID-19 guidance

Friday, May 8, 2020

Area non-profit organizations want to remind northwest Iowans about the options available to cope with anxiety during a time of social distancing or self-isolation related to COVID-19.

Officials with Plains Area Mental Health, a non-profit community mental health center with offices in Spirit Lake and Storm Lake, said anxiety disorders are the most frequently occurring mental health problems among the general population.

While anxiety is a natural reaction to stress, it can become excessive to the point of disrupting a person’s life, according to information from CEO Kim Keleher. She said behavioral therapy may be an effective form of treatment. The approach calls for progressively introducing patients to situations that provoke anxiety in an effort to have them tackle their fears progressively.

As patients learn to control their anxiety, they gain self-confidence and achieve mastery over their situations. In this way, many phobic patients experience long-term recovery, according Plains Area Mental Health officials.

The Iowa Concern program is another resource Iowans can turn to for help, according to Tammy Jacobs, coordinator for the long-time service from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

With a toll-free phone number (1-800-447-1985), live chat capabilities and a website (, Jacobs says Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week at no charge. Iowa Concern provides access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics.

“All personal information given to Iowa Concern, whether on the hotline or through e-mail or live chat, is kept confidential,” Jacobs said.

Seasons Center, based in Spencer, operates 13 sites and serves clients from 19 northwest Iowa counties. Director Kim Scorza said the worldwide pandemic is beginning to take its toll.

“We are providing supportive care and, if needed, our mobile crisis team will be deployed to meet the person in their physical location,” Scorza said. “Our mobile crisis team has taken additional safety measures for their face-to-face mobile response calls to ensure the physical safety of themselves, the client and law enforcement, should law enforcement need to be present.”

The physical offices are currently closed to the public, and services are being offered by telehealth and over the phone — part of the changes which began at the centers last week. All of the therapy, psychiatry, care coordination and nursing is now being facilitated in that fashion.

Likewise, Champion State of Mind, with offices in Estherville, Spirit Lake, Rock Valley, Sioux Center and Orange City, in addition to Spencer, has transitioned most of their clients to telehealth services as well with providers and clients participating from their own homes.

“Parents and family, too, now are finding themselves at home with their kids every day, all day, with very little outlet may feel stressed, anxious or depressed,” Amanda Olson, founder, CEO and mental health therapist with Champion State of Mind, said. “It can be difficult to manage all the things that come along with parenting, then add an unexpected long-term school closure into the mix and that can be downright difficult. As well, individuals who have recently lost their jobs may find it harder to build their routine. Not only would finances be an issue, but loss of health insurance may also be a concern.”

Plains Area Mental Health counselors shared advice for northwest Iowans who face heightened anxiety:

• Stay Active – exercise, use online videos, yoga, take a walk, play games.

• Reach out and call friends, relatives or an elderly neighbor.

• Limit social media and television news.

• Eat balanced meals, drink plenty of fluids.