N. Idaho Crisis Center provides tips for staying mentally sound during pandemic

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OEUR d’ALENE, Idaho — People are anxious to get out of their homes, get back to work, and get the economy rolling again. The North Idaho Crisis Center says misinformation just makes the problem that much worse.

Earlier in the week, the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office debunked a graphic being shared across community Facebook groups, suggesting that 73 people had committed, or attempted to commit, suicide in the last six weeks.

RELATED: KCSO: Viral post about Idaho suicide rates during pandemic are false

That isn’t to say that Kootenai County is free of mental health issues—according to data from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, the state had the fifth-highest rate of suicide in the country in 2018.

“We had 73 calls for service. That could be a multitude of different things where somebody’s having a mental health crisis, and someone will respond and get them information,” explained Sgt. Chris Wagar, with the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office. “We could’ve had a suicide attempt, we could’ve had a protective custody where we’re trying to protect individuals potentially from themselves or others.”

4 News Now reached out to Don Robinson, the manager of the North Idaho Crisis Center, who said that “having bad information muddies the picture for us.” Misinformation also makes it worse for those trying to get information on what’s going on right now, increasing anxiety.

“If you look at other events like a natural disaster say a hurricane or a wildfire or an earthquake, those events have, I like the term bookends,” he said. “You know when they start, and you know when they end. This, not only dealing with a virus or pandemic, it’s something you can’t see. It’s something that’s not out there and you don’t know when it’s going to start or when it’s going to end.”

So what can we do to maintain our mental health? Robinson recommends that people limit their intake of news. Too much news can be overwhelming.

“It’s real easy to fall down that social media rabbit hole and immerse yourself in news. You need to stay aware, you need to stay informed, but selectively pick your times,” he said.

He suggests people establish routines, take breaks and know that help is always there.

The Crisis Center has seen an increase in calls, but fewer people showing up in-person. The center is located on the Kootenai Health campus. Robinson believes that could be a reason why people are afraid to walk in – being near a hospital.

“I don’t want somebody out in the community who is suffering, who needs our services, to suffer in silence and not come in because they’re afraid of exposure,” said Robinson. “We are protecting everybody. If you’re not comfortable coming in, call us and we can certainly talk about it.”

If you or someone you know needs help, please use the following resources:

  • Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline: (208) 398-4357
  • National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255
  • Text “Heal” to 741741