Amid Mental Health Awareness Month, spike in kids needing support

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As more research is conducted, the effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on children is becoming clearer.

Local mental health experts say there has been a sharp spike in kids needing their help and those experts worry this is just the start.

One Minnesota man is sharing the journey he took to create better days for himself, as well as talking about the resources available for families during Mental Health Awareness Month this May.

In the early 2000s, Jacob Englund was the drummer for Dropping Daylight.

“We had a video on MTV, and we were at Rock Radio,” he recalls.

Englund was also head of the business side of the band. He says it took a toll.

“It was a lot to do for a 22-year-old and I wasn’t eating well, wasn’t sleeping well. And the journey in mental health really started when, you know, I was up for like, days on end. And I was put on a 72-hour hold in Wisconsin.

Fast forward about 20 years; Englund has been living with a form of bipolar disorder and now sits on the board for Minnesota’s National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Taking the first step toward improving his mental health was key in his journey toward better days. When asked what he would tell people taking the same first steps, Englund said, “Yeah, reach out, don’t do it alone.”

Jamie Winter, director of mental health services at Children’s Minnesota, says, “These struggles don’t just fall on adults and moms and dads; Children’s Minnesota saw a 30% increase in the number of kids who needed mental health support in 2021. It’s sad to see the impact of the pandemic and, and the struggles that many of our kids and families are having.”

Winter says, while work is being done to address this need, resources are starting to get stretched thin.

“Families are experiencing longer wait times than they have previously across the country,” Winter said. “So you know, previously where we may have seen a couple of weeks to get into services. Now, we may see that it’s a couple of months.”

Some of that work includes expanding their care, including a brand new in-patient care center in St Paul.

But before that care can start, families need to reach out.

“We recognize that, you know, if we want kids to succeed, it’s also helping set up their families so that they know how to support them, and that they also are functioning at a level that they can provide that environment for the child to really thrive,” Winter said.