May is Mental Health Month

Quotes from Known Authors:

  • “There is a Crack in Everything, That’s How the Light Gets In” – Leon Cohen
  • “In any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” — Abraham Maslow
  • “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” — Fredrick Douglass
  • “Sadly, too often, the stigma around mental health prevents people who need help from seeking it. But that simply doesn’t make any sense. Whether an illness affects your heart, your arm or your brain, it’s still an illness, and there shouldn’t be any distinction. We would never tell someone with a broken leg that they should stop wallowing and get it together. We don’t consider taking medication for an ear infection something to be ashamed of. We shouldn’t treat mental health conditions any differently. Instead, we should make it clear that getting help isn’t a sign of weakness — it’s a sign of strength — and we should ensure that people can get the treatment they need.” (Huffington Post)  … “Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg or your brain.  It’s still an illness, and there should be no distinction” Michelle Obama
  • “Since that day (I opened up about my emotions).  It’s just been so much easier to live and so much easier to enjoy live”.  Michael Phelps
  • “What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation” – Glenn Close
  • “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow” – Helen Keller

  • “So many people look at [my depression] as me being ungrateful, but that is not it— I can’t help it. There’s not much that I’m closed off about, and the universe gave me all that so I could help people feel like they don’t have to be something they’re not or feel like they have to fake happy. There’s nothing worse than being fake happy.” – Miley Cyrus

Compiled by:

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW

COVID-19: Proactive Testing By National Guard at St. William’s Living Center

At St. William’s, we abide by one, simple rule: Provide the highest quality health care and services to seniors.

The rise of the recent COVID-19 pandemic is no exception to the rule. We refuse to allow this global catastrophe to compromise the quality of service we offer.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 82% of all COVID-19 deaths in our state were residents of long-term care or assisted living facilities. That chilling statistic puts us on high alert to protect our vulnerable residents.

We have had no positive cases of COVID-19 at our facility. Keep reading to learn the measures we’re taking at St. William’s to ensure the safety of our residents and employees.

Proactive Testing

The best way to mitigate the dangers of this disease is prevention. We’ve done this by following strict social distancing guidelines and practicing high levels of personal hygiene. But another important factor in preventing an outbreak is testing.

The State of Emergencies Operations Center (SEOC) in collaboration with the Minnesota National Guard are making a plan to test all long-term care residents and employees throughout the state. They will be at St. William’s on the following dates:

  • May 29, 2020
  • June 5, 2020
  • June 11, 2020

National Guard members will be on-site during those days to test all residents and staff. This is great news because it will help us in our fight to keep St. William’s free from COVID-19.

Extra Precautions

Infection prevention has always been one of our top priorities, but since the outbreak, we have taken more proactive measures to isolate and prevent the spread. Visitation remains restricted until further notice. We have also restricted all communal dining and activities, instead opting for activities that residents can do from their rooms including traveling happy hour and daily movies.

All St. William’s staff members wear masks during their shifts and direct care staff members also wear protective goggles. Our supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are healthy as we have large numbers of masks, gowns, and eye protection on hand. We also have ample amounts of cleaning and sanitation supplies.

Employees are screened for COVID-19 symptoms at the beginning of each shift. Residents are also screened twice per day to detect symptoms early.

In a proactive move, we have hired plenty of extra staff members so we can continue to provide the highest quality of care for our residents as the pandemic reaches new heights. We have also been in contact with a nurse staffing agency should staffing levels drop due to infections.

Plan for the Future

Again, there have been no positive cases at St. Williams and our goal is to keep it that way. However, we must remain realistic. As this disease spreads and the economy opens again, we will see positive cases rise and it will impact our residents and staff members.

If we do have a resident test positive for the disease, we have an action plan to care for them until they are no longer contagious. We have been following the Minnesota Department of Health guidelines and our staff members are well-versed in the proper infection control procedures. We will take swift action to ensure the disease doesn’t spread and that the resident gets the best care possible while they recover.

Family members, residents, and staff will be updated immediately if a positive test result occurs at St. William’s.

To Our Staff Members

St. William’s wouldn’t be the exceptional facility it is without our amazing staff members. Over the last few months, they have been especially important as they are at the front lines of this pandemic, caring for those who are the most vulnerable.

Wearing a face mask and eye protection every day is a burden. Taking multiple tests to rule out infection is a burden. Dealing with the stress of the pandemic while continuing to care for others is a burden.

Our staff has handled these burdens with exceptional poise and we are greatly appreciative of every one of them!

Questions? Give Us a Call

At this time, St. William’s has no positive cases of COVID-19 and we plan to do everything we can to keep it that way. If you have any questions about how we’re dealing with this crisis, please feel free to contact us: Tim Kelly, Administrator at 218-338-1001, or Lori Roers, Director of Nursing at 218-338-1009.

MENTAL HEALTH CORNER

With Social Distancing, showing compassion or hugging would be a long stretch.  It may be awhile before we can hug again, but the need is still there.  It’s Good for your Mental Health.

Did you know that hugging someone you care about not only makes you feel more connected to the other person; it also contributes to both your mental and physical health?  Dr. Kathleen C. Light at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, noted in NIH News in Health, February 2007, studied oxytocin levels in loving couples as well as mothers and their infants. Although the research is preliminary, she notes that as love and affection are expressed, a hormone, oxytocin, mostly made in the area of the brain called the hypothalamus, is released into the bloodstream through Dopamine, a brain chemical that plays a crucial part in how we perceive pleasure.  Released oxytocin has been found to bring about increased satisfaction and enjoyment in life.  It makes us feel good and improves our mood.  In addition, increased oxytocin tends to lower levels of stress hormones in the body as well as reduces blood pressure, increases pain tolerance, and may speed recovery from illness.  In fact, there is good research indicating that without the release of oxytocin, there is a greater chance of serious depression and other mental illness! 

We remain at social distance status.  However, hugging can be a miracle medicine that relieves many physical and emotional problems people struggle with.   Hugging is healthy.  It relieves tension.  It combats depression.  It reduces stress.  It improves blood circulation.  It generates good will.  It offers comfort and sustains self-esteem.  It brings warm fuzzies to the soul.  It also doesn’t require a license or registration.  There are no insurance costs or co-pays, and it actually saves on medical bills.   It is tax free and not dependent on the market.  It does not threaten the environment, nor does it require batteries or electricity.  Frequent use brings about increased benefits; the more you give, the more you receive.  It is something that just keeps on giving.  It can’t break down, although it is fully-refundable.  It is life-time guaranteed.  And, there are no unpleasant side effects, except during a world-renowned virus! 

With all the technology out there, inventing a software program that allows for virtual hugs seems like a worthwhile consideration. 

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW

St. Williams Mental Health Center

Going Backwards may Help Us Go Forward

With COVID-19, many have been forced to return in some format to the customs of previous generations; without access to outings, social visiting or even money to purchase types of entertainment devices.    Is there any silver lining in going backwards? 

According to experts in the mental health field, the lives many of us lead today show more anxiety and depression compared to 50 years ago.  Back a generation or two, children used to play outside games, such as “Annie Annie Over” where two groups of kids on the opposite side threw a ball over the house to the kids on the other side. The goal was to tag the person catching the ball, or catch the ball and tag someone from the opposite side.  It is a simple game; one without much pizzazz, but fun none-the-less.  In contrast to today’s rapid pace and techy world, kids back then stayed home more and shared hours of creative playtime, be it dress-up, “Kick the Can”, Tag, Hop Scotch, marbles, or Chinese Jump-Rope.  Yes, this is the generation that ranked high to smelling the flowers and having neighbors over for Sunday afternoon get-togethers.  These happy-go-lucky times are of a simpler world which has nearly passed us by.

With time, we have become more multifaceted beings.  Our society has given way to the technical world and the rapid pace of it all, with expectations higher and the competition greater.  Our brains have stretched to saturate more and more advanced data of which we strive to understand so that we can function in today’s world.   As we are in a progressive generation that requires the mastery of such operandum, we become accustomed to a fast-paced, complicated operational culture. 

We all are adjusting to a new normal; one that allows for more pause and breathing space, giving way to waning schedules and tasks mostly limited to home projects.  Maybe this is a time for reflection on the lives we live.  What would be the silver lining in all this?  Maybe there is some benefit to taking a wider lens to a fast-paced lifestyle while also being homebound and forced to live more simply.  Could it be that we come to a new truism about the lifestyle we choose once this virus is behind us?  While we capture ourselves in an advanced era, maybe we will seek a new balance; one that supports good mental health.  Truly, relaxing is a necessary key to reducing our mental health symptoms while also reducing chronic pain and improving your overall physical health.  As we have become consumed with the fast pace of this generation, it is doubtful that our kids will learn “Annie Annie Over”.  However, possibly we all will come to see that taking a breath, slowing down or just settling is a good thing.  Going backwards may help us move forwards.  

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW

The Pathway Through Uncertain Times

Who would have thunk it?  Most of us have never experienced anything like COVID 19.  As many of us in our country, even throughout the world, have been obstructed and disturbed by several gigantic turbulences in their lives (e.g., world wars, gigantic volcano eruptions, drastic ups and downs of financial markets), this is unique.  A virus?  Impacting the entire world?  Yes, we haven’t experienced anything like this in our life time, although history shows that we have gone this way before.  Most of us have felt the crunch that has taken place along the way; and without a certainty of what’s best next, we each have a choice as to what path forward we will take.  There are many paths, yet we all must ask ourselves which one will lead us to the best one.

What path will you take?  When people become anxious or stressed, it is common to react with either/or a mixture of “flight, fight or freeze”.  These are the common responses to anxiety. 

What is “flight”?  It is running away from it all.  The hype of the virus becomes so overwhelming and unstoppable that it can’t be reckoned with.   As emotions of anxiety or fear reach a new height, logic may not be at the forefront and running away is the primary mode of operation.

“Fight” is another pathway some follow.  Here, the emotions of anger/blame come forward.  It is an effort to ensure there is justice or that those in authority be held accountable for poor leadership.  The individual finds justification through efforts at opposition with feelings of being wronged.   Again, emotions run the show and finding the path may be secondary.

“Freeze” is a reaction oftentimes felt by those who are stunned or shocked with the trauma and their emotions paralyze them so that moving forwards or backwards is not considered.  Panic is the primary emotion, and staying still without a course of action is common-place.

Emotions have a hay-day with disturbances we have to face, such as this virus.  We can allow our emotions; like anxiety or fear or anger/blame or guilt, to guide us down a path that allows our passion or reactions to lead. 

We can also allow our own biases or personality traits to dominate our choice of paths, be it burying your head in the sand with a sei la vie’ attitude, fighting for power or control, reacting with a sense of being victimized and dependency, or sharing a full force of drama.

Resilience is a path that oftentimes is left forgotten.  Resilience allows for a brighter ending – being logical about the reality of the virus, appreciating the challenge of it all, seeking emotional and spiritual endurance, over-powering the temptation of reacting with raw emotion, and building inner strength may all be keys to finding the right path. 

Most of us believe that at some point we will return to a new normal but one we can accommodate with.  How are you going to get there?  In paraphrasing one author, “We all get off the train at the same time; but the experience of it all is up to us”.  Indeed, these are uncertain times.    Be aware of the path you choose.  

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW