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First Responder: Mental wellness checks on the rise during COVID-19 pandemic

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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) -- Whether it's calling your friends or just taking a moment to breath, health experts say it's important to take care of your mental well being.

As COVID-19 numbers continue to increase, officials say it's just as important to continue to take care of your mental health as well as your physical health.

"We're grieving the way that we used to live," said therapist Collin Bohlke.

With many people working from home and not often leaving their homes due to the pandemic, health experts and first responders have seen an increase in mental wellness checks and suicide rates.

Sergeant Jeremy McClure of the Sioux City Police Department says on average, they usually have one to two suicide investigations, every one to two months.

He says last month those investigations went up to five.

"In the last month we have investigated a significant increase in completed suicides. And it's almost alarming, the rates that we've seen these increase," said Sgt. McClure.

Collin Bohlke, Therapist at Seasons Center for Behavioral Health in Spencer, Iowa, says isolation plays a big factor in the decline of mental health.

"Overall what we have to recognize as a society right now is anything that can change at a moment's notice. So anxiety is at a higher level probably in everyone. We're continuing to have to adapt to things as well as change the way that we live," said Bohlke.

Sergeant McClure says when conducting a mental wellness check, officers always make initial contact with the person in need.

"Once we feel that it's safe enough to we will reach out to what we call the MCAT or the mobile crisis action team. And social workers and mental health providers will come to that subject and talk to them. And refer them on to further services if need be or work with them during that moment of crisis," said Sgt. McClure.

Bohlke says if you feel your mental health is declining, reach out to someone you trust.

"Anybody that they feel like that you can have a genuine and open conversation with. If you are having those thoughts of hurting or killing yourself or dying by suicide that warrants more serious attention. Meaning call 911 or go to your nearest hospital emergency room," said Bohlke.

Bohlke adds, if you aren't up to the idea of therapy just yet, it's okay to take small steps at first.

"It's okay to not be okay. Just reach out to somebody and talk with them about how you're feeling. Just not holding it inside and really verbalizing it and putting it out into the open can relieve some of that tension as well," said Bohlke.

Bohlke says to remember the simple things like drinking water, exercising, getting outside and getting enough sleep are all little things that can also help improve your mental health.

If you're in need of help you can call the National Suicide Prevent Line at 1-800-273-8255. It is available 27 hours a day.

For help you can go to Seasons website by clicking here.

If you can also find help if you're in Iowa, South Dakota or Nebraska by clicking each state.

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Emily Schrad

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