Seward County takes step toward better mental health for its community

By Kaisha Batman, KSN, original article link

Mental health remains a concern for many across the country as COVID-19 rages on. In southwest Kansas, Seward County officials are stepping up to help their community.

School, work, daily routines — almost everything has been turned upside down over the past year. With that, can come things like stress and anxiety, taking a toll on many people’s mental health.

According to a recent study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 35% of Americans and more than a third of Kansans are facing mental health-related issues.

In Seward County, a COVID hotspot last spring, county officials say they knew mental health services would be essential, but for some, access and cost were a concern.

“In the early days, a lot of it was focused on our physical health. Right? And as we’ve moved through this, the realities of mental health have increased all the more,” said Leslie Bissell, Southwest Guidance Center Executive Director.

In order to maximize resources and access within the community, county partners worked together to provide county-wide mental health services to anyone who has been negatively impacted by the pandemic, emotionally, mentally, or physically.

“We’ve tried throughout this process as the Emergency Operation Center to meet whatever needs there are, whether that was in education, whether that was in vaccines, whether that was in testing, and the mental health piece is just another major component of that,” said Eli Svaty, Executive Director of the Seward County Development Corporation and Seward County Public Information Officer.

In Seward County, psychologists say stress, the fear of the unknown, and isolation have been leading causes impacting their community’s mental wellness.

“I think a lot of people, especially out here, that think they’re made of pretty strong stuff, are being surprised by the unexpected feeling of anxiety and not necessarily understanding where it’s coming from,” said Bissell.

Officials say the services are an affordable option for the community as a whole and for those that are uninsured or underinsured, the services are completely free of charge. By doing so, the county is able to help those that otherwise may not be able to afford the care they need.

“Finding someone today who cannot say their life was in some way affected by COVID would be extremely difficult and making sure we have resources available to meet all of those needs is comforting as a community,” Svaty said.

A challenge the county has faced is the stigma that comes with mental health and they’re hoping the idea of help is normalized. 

The services will be available through August 2022 at the Southwest Guidance Center. The free options are possible with the help of a $122,752 Emergency COVID-19 Grant through the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.

This grant was also provided to services in the counties of Johnson, Leavenworth, Wyandotte, Shawnee, Sedgwick, Ford, and Finney.

For more information on mental health or if you or someone you know is struggling with mental health concerns, contact the Southwest Guidance Center at 620-624-8171.

To reach the Disaster Distress Helpline, click here.

If you are a veteran struggling with mental health concerns, call the Veterans Crisis Line and Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.

To reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 1-800-273-8255. For help in Spanish, call 1-888-628-9454.

This article was republished here with the permission of: KSNW-TV