“Holidays can be very joyful,” says South Dakota Department of Social Services (DSS) Secretary Laurie Gill. “For many people, it can be stressful as well. Some people get sad over the holidays, some are lonely. During a pandemic, some of the same things people are experiencing are actually amplified during the holiday season.”
That is why South Dakota’s Department of Social Services introduced a variety of tools that can help South Dakotans get access to the mental health care that they need.
The “605 Strong Program” was created during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, but is now also focused in on the combination of COVID-19 and the holidays.
“A lot of people need different types of assistance during this time,” Gill said. “Healthcare workers (are) stretched, parents with their kids in their home while they are trying to work from home, businesses seeing customers scared to enter the business, (etc.)”
Capitol Area Counseling says the mental health fall out from the pandemic has been noticeable in their service area. CEO Amy Iversen-Pollreisz says that if you aren’t seeing loved ones or family members in person for the holidays, she would highly encourage you to schedule a set time to see them virtually.
“Because you maybe cannot get together and do the normal big family dinners, or things that you would have done without the pandemic, it is really important to think ahead about how you will connect with the family,” Iversen-Pollreisz says. “Plan time where you are maybe going to do a video chat or get together (virtually), that way you can still see family members.”
DSS contracts with 11 community mental health centers across the state offering services to both children and adults. Financial assistance for services at those centers is available for eligible families. You can find the closest community mental health center by going to dss.sd.gov and clicking on the Behavioral Health tab.
You can also text ’605Strong’ to 89811, or simply dial 211 to reach the 211 Helpline Center. 605 Strong program staff are trained to provide stress relief and handle mental health crises. The Helpline Center can also provide referrals to other resources.
“We hope that every South Dakotan can experience joy this holiday season,” said Gill. “I encourage anyone who needs support to use the resources DSS has available. If that’s you, please know you’re not alone and there are caring professionals waiting to provide support.”