Mental health providers dealing with increase in young people needing services

Published: Jul. 6, 2021 at 5:28 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Leaders at Tanager Place in Cedar Rapids say there are more people asking for help with their mental health.

Nathan Ostlund is the parent of two 7-year-olds. After a year of handling the pandemic, he’s not surprised that more young people need help, including his own kids.

“I think a lot of people have problems with mental health issues,” Ostlund said. “For a while there, it was difficult. It’s a new thing for everybody, so it’s hard explaining to them the circumstances, and why they have to wear a mask, and why they’re in the house all the time.”

Getting back to their normal activities, once again, is helping but the impacts of the pandemic are spilling over into therapists’ offices as well, like Joella Gerber’s at Tanager Place.

“We’re seeing increased numbers of referrals coming in,” Gerber said. “For some of our littles, we’re seeing anxiety around what is it like to not be at home all the time anymore, and have to start to re-engage in life outside of the home.”

New admissions into their clinic went from 71 in January, to 124 in March, and then, 136 in May.

“There’s been a few factors that have impacted people seeking services. I think the pandemic has certainly increased people’s need. I think there’s also just more conversation about mental health happening,” Gerber said. “Some of our teens just are feeling like it’s more OK to talk about those things.”

As of May, there were about 20 therapists working with about 1,400 clients for outpatient clinical services at Tanager Place.

“One of the things about mental health is that there will always be a need, so we are trying to work to keep up with that demand too,” Gerber added.

Gerber said they’re still adding people and looking to reach and help as many as possible, especially with the next school year less than two months out. In the meantime, for Gerber and parents like Ostlund, communication is key.

“We just try to communicate with them regularly, and check-in with all their feelings, and try to stay on top of any issues,” Ostlund said.

“It’s important for kids and teens to talk to someone, so let your parents know, let your teacher know, let an adult know, or someone you feel like you trust,” Gerber said.

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