The coronavirus pandemic has been tough, especially for those struggling with their mental health.
"That is a time when they should be out experiencing life, they should be gaining independence and exploring their identity, their sexuality and things like that, and all of a sudden you take that away and stick them at home," said Dakotah Cole, Lead Counselor at Imagine Nampa. "That has caused a huge increase in mental health symptoms."
According to a survey conducted by the Trevor Project, of more than 35,000 LGBTQ+ youth in our country, 80 percent of respondents said the pandemic made their living situations more stressful. Forty-two percent said they had seriously considered suicide in the last year, and nearly 66 percent said they did not live in LGBTQ+-affirming households.
"Adolescence is a trying time for a lot of people and families, and in the grips of COVID, it's even worse," said Daniel Griffin, Program Director of Imagine by Northpoint. "I get my staff into training, a lot of clinicians in our company have taken specific training to offer care to that population specifically."
Last year in our Finding Hope series, Idaho News 6 introduced you to the Imagine program which focuses on teen mental health and works with LGBTQ+ youth.
Since then, they've expanded into Meridian. Experts say it comes at a critical time as continued isolation during the pandemic has mental health experts worried about LGBTQ+ youth managing all the pressure.
"There's a lot of issues that come with that. A lot of anxiety, a lot of depression, a lot of isolation from family members," explained Cole.
Cole knows firsthand how hard it is to battle mental illness. Growing up in Hailey, he tells Idaho News 6 he was an at-risk teen. Now, as an adult, he works to provide resources that weren't available when he was young. That's why he's so passionate about working with youth.
"If I can stop a kid here from going into our adult programs, that would be ideal," Cole said. "Those victories when you see a client come through this door and they're struggling, and then they make it to graduation and they're an entirely different adolescent, that's huge and keeps me coming back every day."
He says having a support system is crucial to good mental health, especially for LGBTQ+ youth.
"A lot of what we try to do here is really just validate and support that experience and try to stabilize those mental health symptoms, as well as provide psychoeducation to parents and try to help families be supportive," explained Cole.
If you'd like to learn more about the Imagine program, click here.
If you or someone you know is struggling, please don't hesitate to reach out for help.
Here's a full list of resources for mental health and addiction treatment:
Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline:
Phone: (208) 398-4357
Veteran's Crisis Line:
Phone: 1 (800) 273-8255 (PRESS 1), or you can text: 838255 to get help from professionals, 24/7.
St. Luke's Psychiatric Wellness Clinic:
211 Idaho Careline:
Phone: Dial 211 or 1-800-926-2588
Code 4 Northwest:
Phone: (888) 659-7510
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare:
Phone lists: https://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/ContactUs.aspx