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Coping — with creativity

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | February 21, 2024 1:00 AM

COEUR d'ALENE — When the mental chatter becomes overwhelming, Lake City High School senior Ava Angell dims the lights, turns on soft music and meditates on the positive.

"Breathing in the good thoughts and exhaling out the bad ones," Angell said Tuesday, sharing a mental health tactic her mom taught her.

"I try to do it every night," she said. "I feel like that’s when my thoughts are racing the most, and that’s when it’s healthiest to get them out."

Angell is a member of the Interact Club of Coeur d'Alene, formed in 2022 as an offshoot youth program of the Rotary Club of Coeur d'Alene. The Interact Club recently hosted a Coping with Creativity event at the Kroc Center as part of its focus on mental health this school year.

The event, co-chaired by Angell and Coeur d'Alene High School senior Kiley Hart, was an opportunity to provide insight to parents, students and community members regarding coping strategies but also to foster a deeper and better understanding of mental health. 

"We wanted to bring to light some interesting coping mechanisms that not a lot of people use," Angell said. 

Art supplies were provided for the roughly 60 attendees as they explored using creative outlets as coping mechanisms. They were invited to freely paint after the first speech by Tyson Durbin, a licensed therapist working at the Kroc Center.

Durbin gave two speeches, first touching on using distraction as a coping mechanism — constant phone/screen usage and scrolling, drinking, smoking and addiction, to name a few common distractions — then discussing healthy ways to deal with mental health, such as self-love, getting in tune with the higher self and the importance of meditation. He shared insight about trauma and ways for parents and friends to support each other through mental health hardships. 

“I thought that was really impactful when he was talking about distraction because I didn't know how much that distraction was impacting me, stopping me from being able to cope with my own emotions,” Angell said.

Interact Club President Luke Sharon said the people with whom he spoke after the event left with a clearer guide on how to support loved ones struggling with mental health issues. 

"Despite initial hesitation from all the adults present to participate, after a few minutes of awkward sitting, every single adult got up to paint," Sharon said. 

The Kroc Center donated its facilities for the event. Informational tables were provided by Beyoutiful Hot Yoga, Lake City’s Hope Club, Panhandle Health, Kootenai Health, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Gem State Mushrooms.

"All six of these booths shared some free insights on healthy coping methods," Sharon said.

Angell said mental health is a huge part of her life, as several of her family members have been affected by it.

"I just want to do whatever I can so people are aware of it and break the stigma," she said.

The Interact Club of Coeur d'Alene was the driving force behind gold medalist and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps visiting Coeur d'Alene to speak about mental health in 2023. 

If you or someone you know is having mental health challenges, the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available for free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

See the Interact Club on Instagram: instagram.com/cdainteract

    Interact Club of Coeur d'Alene member and Lake City High junior Rowen Lair, left, and Lake City senior and Interact Club President Luke Sharon, right, snap a photo with Kroc Center counselor Tyson Durbin during Thursday's Coping with Creativity mental health awareness event.
 
 
    Kroc Center licensed therapist Tyson Durbin, left, shares insights and experience regarding mental health Thursday during the Interact Club of Coeur d'Alene's Coping with Creativity event at the Kroc Center.