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‘It's Never Been Easier to Get Care. And It's Never Been More Important to Stay Connected’

Mathew Gass, left, is the President of the Central Region for Burrell Behavioral Health, and Matt Lemon, right, is the Director of Communications.
Provided by Burrell Behavioral Health

Mathew Gass and Matt Lemon both work at Burrell Behavioral Health. Mathew Gass is the President of the Central Region, which includes Columbia, and Matt Lemon is the Director of Communications for the entire Burrell system – based in Springfield.

They spoke about some of the mental health impacts the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has already had on Missourians, and about the long-term community-wide mental health impacts the pandemic is likely to leave in its wake.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Mathew Gass: You know, I don't believe that our grandparents when they were experiencing the Great Depression, knew what that long-term impact of a significant and sustained issue, trauma that they were experiencing.

We all have that family story about how, you know, someone's parents or grandparents or great-grandparents were affected by those stressors that they came across.

And I think we're a little bit in the middle of that right now, you know, we're seeing increased rates of substance use. We're seeing increased rates of suicidality, suicidal ideations, depression, anxiety… People have not fully come to be able to navigate what their world and their routines look like.

You know, you see increasing numbers of people who are affected by COVID-19. You see case transmission rates. You see that steep spike in the number of individuals who are experiencing the physical health of that.

Now, what people haven't talked a lot about on the news is that peak and that spike of what's happening behind the scenes as we ask people to stay away from others. As we isolate ourselves away from our family members and our grandparents because of the real need not to physically infect them with this virus.

And so, that has some real long standing effects that we believe based on, you know, previous stressors similar to this, that we're going to be seeing for the next, you know, two, maybe three years from now.

Matt, what can you add to this, if you don't mind, I ask?

Matt Lemon: I think if I could close with one thing, it would probably just be that 60 percent of adults have indicated a negative mental health impact of COVID. So, this is cutting across demographics and ages and genders and all the classes and subdivisions that you can think.

So, I just want to make sure people, if they take nothing else out of sort of a COVID and mental health conversation, it’s that – if they're in care, remain in care, remain connected to your care. And if you think you need it, you know, it's probably a good time to reach out and ask for help.

So, we've got crisis services available, and our doors always open. We have a walk-in connection center. It's never been easier to get care. And it's never been more important to stay connected.

Mathew Gass: You know, Matt, what you just said really hits home for me because, you know, I hear people ask me all the time, you know, “When is the right time to get my family member care? When do I reach out to a therapist?” And you're right, the right answer is right now and, in the moment.

If you or anyone you know needs help, Burrell Behavioral Health has many resources available. For non-emergency behavioral health services, call 573-777-8300 or visit www.burrellcenter.com/locations/. OR get help 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-395-2132.

Rebecca Smith is a reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. She was born and raised in Rolla, Missouri, and graduated with degrees in Journalism and Chemistry from Truman State University in May 2014. Rebecca comes to KBIA from St. Louis Public Radio, where she worked as the news intern and covered religion, neighborhood growth and the continued unrest in Ferguson, MO.
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