Helping one another survive the crisis

While the number of people infected with COVID-19 in Blaine County is considered high, with around 500 confirmed cases, that number is shattered by the amount of local people whose lives have been damaged and threatened in other ways.

Thousands of locals lost their jobs. Hundreds of Blaine County families are now food insecure. Kids and countless folks of all ages have become lost and lonely. Nerves have been fried. Hopes have been dashed. Fear has become the overwhelming mood of many Blaine County residents.

That’s why we need each other now more than ever.

While there are valid concerns about a “second wave” of the pandemic hitting our county and country, the next wave may not be just a physical health crisis.

“The second wave isn’t necessarily going to be about COVID,” Laurie Strand said, citing a growing national concern. “It’s going to be a mental health crisis.”

Laurie is a Mental Health Therapist for the Blaine County School District and the co-facilitator for the 5B Suicide Alliance. Since May is Mental Health Month and so many of us are currently or are likely to be having battles with this part of life as we work our way through these challenging times, I asked Laurie for some advice.

“Nationally and locally I don’t think we’ve ever lived through a human experience where we’re all going through the same thing,” she said. “But everyone is still experiencing this differently. For some people it has been an inconvenience, for others it has been life altering.”

Despite being known for affluence, approximately one in three Blaine County households were considered to be one crisis away from food insecurity before the pandemic hit, according to The Hunger Coalition. Mix that with the fact that around 25% of Americans already struggle with mental health issues and we have the recipe for some serious challenges.

But the news is not all bad, especially if we end the stigma against getting help and we do our part to help one another.

Laurie explained that there are five healthy habits we all should follow. We need to get exercise regularly. We need to eat healthy foods. We need to keep up our routines and healthy habits. We need to stay connected to others in meaningful ways. And we need to relax and recharge, now more than ever.

“Rarely is someone in crisis dealing with just one thing,” Laurie said. “That’s why it’s so important right now for us to be there for each other. You don’t have to know what to do. You just have to be there, to stay there with that person until you can find someone who does know how to help.”

Luckily, there are lots of people in Blaine County who are here to help. The Hunger Coalition, The Advocates, The Crisis Hotline, NAMI, your friends and neighbors are here to help. The new website is also good place to find resources in both English and Spanish.

Please remember that we all have dark and challenging moments and that you are never really alone. Be kind to yourself. There are lots of people who want to help, you just have give them the chance.

NAMI Wood River Valley is sponsoring Biking for Mental Wellness on May 31st. To sign up or find out more see the flyer below or  go here.

By Mike McKenna


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