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An Overview of Mental Health in Idaho Falls, Idaho

In 1864, there was a new wave of migration to the western territories along the Montana Trail. A man named Harry Ricketts saw an opportunity to capitalize on the surge of migrants and built a ferry on the Snake River. Thus, the community of Idaho Falls was born. Today, it is the second largest community in Idaho (population 58,691), the county seat of Bonneville County, and a hub for culture, commerce, and health care not only for southeast Idaho but parts of southern Montana and western Wyoming.

Demographic and Socioeconomic Data for Idaho Falls

By far, the most prevalent ethnic group in Idaho Falls is people who identify as white/Caucasian at 82 percent. The second most prevalent ethnic group is people who identify as Hispanic/Latino at 13.8 percent. No other ethnic group, or combination thereof, in Idaho Falls exceeds 2 percent of the population.

Two of the most significant indicators of economic health in a community are median household income and median home value. Data for Idaho Falls is interesting and somewhat contradictory in that the median home value for the city is quite a bit lower ($150,885) than that for the entire state of Idaho ($189,400), yet the median household income of Idaho Falls is $54,468, slightly higher than the statewide median of $51,807.

Mental Health Statistics in Idaho Falls

One of the most significant indicators of poor mental health is the rate of suicides. Statewide, the average rate of suicides in Idaho is higher than the national rate by about 48 percent, and it has one of the highest suicide rates in the country when compared to other states. On the county level, Bonneville County has a moderate to moderately low suicide rate at 20.9 per 100,000 people. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that as many as 1 in 4 Idahoans are living with mental illness, and of those, the percentage of people with serious mental illness may be as high as 6 percent.

The Challenge of Finding a Suitable Mental Health Provider in Idaho Falls

The federal government has designated the entire state of Idaho as a chronic mental health provider shortage area. The entire state has only about 260 psychologists (providers with doctoral degrees) and 120 psychiatrists (physicians who specialize in mental health). The statistics are slightly better for counselors and therapists, who have graduate-level training; there are about 1,780 therapists and/or counselors serving Idaho residents throughout the state. There is some good news for residents of Idaho Falls specifically; despite the relative paucity of mental health providers throughout the state, some of the largest concentrations are in the Idaho Falls vicinity.

Factors Affecting Mental Health in Idaho Falls

A number of factors have the potential to affect mental health in Idaho Falls. These factors do not necessarily occur in isolation.

  • Education: A relatively high percentage of the Idaho Falls adult population has a high school diploma, 90.5 percent compared with 87.3 percent for the country as a whole. However, only 28.8 percent of the population holds a bachelor’s degree, less than one-third the percentage of high school graduates.
  • Poverty: The poverty rate in Idaho Falls is approximately 15 percent, higher than the national rate of 12.3 percent. It is significant that 21 percent of Idaho Falls residents living in poverty are Hispanic/Latino despite the demographic making up only 13.4 percent of the total population.
  • Risky Behaviors: Bonneville County has a moderate number of yearly chlamydia diagnoses of 254.8 per 100,000 people per year. The rate of HIV diagnoses per 100,000 people is about 46.3, which seems relatively low except when compared to the many counties in Idaho with so few HIV diagnoses that there are no statistics available.

Vulnerable Populations in Idaho Falls

There are two groups at particular risk in Idaho Falls: adolescents and the unemployed. Percentages of Idaho youth who report suicide attempts, suicidal thoughts, depression symptoms, or depressive episodes are higher than those reported nationwide. Adolescents, particularly males, are also more likely to engage in binge drinking.

In addition to the potential stress disorders resulting from the condition, unemployment is also a significant risk factor for heavy drinking among Idaho residents. Approximately 5.3 percent of adults in Idaho are heavy drinkers, but the percentage for the unemployed is higher at 6.3 percent.