Walz, officials highlight importance of mental health, announce $1.2M donation to support Minnesota students

Josh Skluzacek
Updated: November 20, 2020 05:54 PM
Created: November 20, 2020 02:13 PM

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Friday announced that the IKEA U.S. Community Foundation is donating $1.2 million to the state.

Walz's office said the donation was in appreciation for the state's support of workers layed off during the pandemic, and the state will use the money to support mental health services for students. The donation matches the amount of money the state has paid to IKEA retail workers as unemployment insurance this year, according to Walz's office.

Minnesota students are increasingly reporting mental health problems, with more than one in four middle and high school students reporting feeling depressed or anxious last year, according to Walz's office. Students of color and those who identify as LGBTQ report experiencing mental health problems more often, research shows, which can affect attendance, academic performance and lead to things like substance abuse or being involved in the juvenile justice system.

"IKEA’s generous donation serves as a model for how public and private sectors can work together to support Minnesotans," Walz said. "COVID-19 has exacerbated mental health needs for all Minnesotans, especially our students. This funding will help ensure we can connect our young people with the mental health services they need and deserve."

Free mental health guidance helping families in pandemic

"The mental health of our students has been a priority since we took office, and its importance has only grown amid the COVID-19 pandemic," Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan added. "During this difficult time, we remain committed to ensuring we provide opportunities for each and every child."

Walz noted that distance learning has certainly added more stress to students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding will provide resources to the School-Linked Mental Health Programs, a Minnesota Department of Human Services-run program that includes 58 providers covering 1,100 school sites in Minnesota.

RESOURCES: Suicide prevention, mental health programs and services

"Meeting the mental health needs of students takes special care and attention and that’s been especially true throughout the pandemic," Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead said. "This generous donation will help schools and mental health professionals improve safety measures so students can safely continue receiving services face-to-face, or when in-person services aren’t an option, to make sure they stay connected to school-linked mental health services through telemedicine."

"We are appreciative of the ongoing support from the state of Minnesota including the unemployment funds paid to our co-workers who were furloughed in the early weeks of the pandemic," Javier Quiñones, IKEA Retail U.S. president, said. "People are the heart of our business, and the state unemployment benefits helped IKEA US co-workers during a difficult time. We now have a better understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on our business, and we’ve decided to ‘pay it forward’ in our local communities."

Sue Abderholden, the executive director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota noted that almost half of young adults are showing signs of depression during the pandemic.

Jodi Nelson, with Change Inc., and Julie Hanenburg with Lighthouse Child and Family Services, both noted that telehealth services have make it easier for Minnesotans to get an appointment and receive the help they need. They also urged Minnesotans to acknowledge that it's OK to have COVID fatigue and feel stressed because it's affecting everyone in different ways.

Anyone can get help via the 24-hour hotline in Minnesota by texting "MN" to 741741. There are also resources to help Minnesotans online.

Some other notes from Friday afternoon's call include:

  • Malcolm says the state's average positivity rate is at 15.4%, and the rate of case growth is still outpacing testing growth.
  • Walz said he and lawmakers are still working to find common ground to address some things in a December special session but haven't yet reached any agreements.
  • Walz wouldn't commit one way or the other to a possible extension of the state's restrictions after they expire in four weeks, saying it'll depend on what the data is showing at that time and what the Upper Midwest's COVID-19 situation is.
  • The governor also addressed Minnesotans, saying he understands it's been a tough week but urged them to keep themselves and their families safe, saying "we can do this."


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