Congressman Brad Finstad visits campus

It is no secret mental health has become a growing problem since the start of COVID-19. From elderly people to high school and college students people of all ages struggle with their mental health. 

The Center for Rural Behavioral Health at Minnesota State University, Mankato has opened a door to people who lack access to a mental health services. Thad Shunkwiler, director of the Center for Rural Behavioral Health, has started something that looks to help people struggling with mental health both in rural southern Minnesota and at MSU.

Shunkwiler had the opportunity last week to give a presentation to District 1 Congressman Brad Finstad in hopes to shed light on the situation that many Minnesotans are dealing with. Shunkweiler wanted to focus on the rural areas of Minnesota, especially farmers who may be affected by mental health issues. 

Shunkweiler’s presentation laid out a multitude of facts including, “Suicide rates are six times higher among farmers and COVID is making it even worse,” an alarming rate for anybody involved but most importantly our neighbors within southern Minnesota who are the ones suffering. 

The Center for Rural Behavioral Health gives farmers and so many other people who live in rural areas and don’t have access to a mental health provider the hope that, in the future, there will be someone they can go to.

One of the main reasons why Shunkwiler wanted to grab Finstad’s attention was because Finstad comes from a rural southern Minnesota background and knows a crisis like this needs to be looked at and taken care of because of how serious it has become. 

“You’ve all had to live through and go through unique time, my heart aches for so many people that have had that isolation and that unique moment in time in their life that they lost due to COVID and so we have to heal from that and part of healing from that is probably have to do business not as usual anymore,” Finstad said.” 

In Shunkwiler’s presentation one of the alarming facts he spoke on was: “In Jackson County Minnesota, there were zero mental health providers,” according to Minnesota Department of Health workforce data. Looking past just Jackson County, many mental health providers are going to be gone in five years causing a shortage.

“Things have to change a little bit, so I love the fact that you are willing to look at that from a different lens that to understand the uniqueness of rural versus metro setting access is always a big issue but even furthermore you know where to look at,” Finstad said. 

At the end of the meeting, Finstad spoke on how his generation and farmers have to be OK with being vulnerable, and that having a conversation about mental health allows the opportunity for connection with younger generations — especially those focused on college kids who’ve also had to go through COVID-19.

Header photo: Congressman Brad Finstad visited MSU Thursday Jan. 19 to talk about accessibility for mental health resources. (Lilly Anderson/The Reporter)

Write to Jackson Jirik at jackson.jirik@mnsu.edu

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