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Systemic Issues Tire Mental Health Support Networks: Part Two of a Series


There’s a saying credited to TV therapist Dr. Phil that borders on cliché.

It goes: “Life’s a marathon, not a sprint”, meaning obstacles are inevitable, it’s going to exhaust the hell out of you, and you’ve got to keep fighting anyway.

It applies to mental health too, making support networks crucial.

Southern Indiana native Nick King uses music and poetry to express his struggles with depression, addiction and self-harm. Nick's father, Corey King, shared some of his son's songs after discussing how hearing Nick's music helped him relate to what he was going through.

"It’s not just creative, it’s as raw as a raw emotion as you can possibly get. And he wrote that when he was in a psych ward," Corey King said.

Corey says Nick has learned to deal with his issues through creative expression. It’s been a long and tiring path to get to that point.

“There is nothing in my life that has ever been as difficult than the eight years of Nick and the difficulties that he had,” Corey King said.

Corey has gotten frustrated with trying to find adequate help for his son in the face of serious health risks.

"I've witnessed my son try to commit suicide three times," he said.

Corey and his family aren't alone in trying to get loved ones the care they need. Kentucky State Rep. Lisa Willner, a psychologist, said less than half of the people in the Bluegrass State who need treatment are currently receiving it.

“Because of shortage of providers, shortage of prescribers, shortage of funding, all too often, folks wind up homeless in those situations, or they end up in jail or prison,” Willner said.

Nick himself has been homeless, and it’s not for a lack of trying to get help.

He’s been to treatment centers several times and wanted to keep up with care afterward. But, making sure people stick with that plan often requires more personalization than an overtaxed system can offer. For example, Nick said managing treatment while working is hard.

“The way things are once you get back on the outside, and like it is for most everyday people, it’s not easy to just make your life revolve around one thing that’s not going to help you have a roof over your head, or have food in your stomach,” Nick said.

Meanwhile, Corey has seen many factors get in the way of his son’s wellness. For one, waitlists to see a therapist can be months-long. So, like many others, Nick relied on a family doctor for maintenance care.

“When I accepted Nick had a real, real problem was when essentially the family physician fired him. I got a letter and the physician said they no longer could care for him,” Corey said. 

This series of challenges led Nick’s support network to wonder what the state could offer, like food stamps, disability resources, or maybe someone to check up on him. Some insurance companies understand it’s hard to find all of these answers and have case managers help guide people through the system.

“The term wasn’t a liaison but it was more or less a coordinator. There was someone to help get your medicines, help you get to where you need to go—it sounded beautiful,” Corey King said.

Corey called the company and said, over an hour later, he spoke with someone he described as sympathetic and wonderful. She referred him to another person who he’s never been able to reach.

“Again, these are cases where high risk, high need, I need a call moved right away and get direct help. And, it’s not that simple and I do believe I’ve got good insurance,” Corey said. 

Corey said Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws also limit his involvement with his son's health, since Nick is an adult now. That means, at the height of his son's struggles, it may have taken days before Corey found out if Nick, who no longer stays with him, was hospitalized after another incident.

“You see your kid in ICU and nobody’s been in there. He’s in there for two days. ICU. No one ever visited—no one knew he was there. What’s that feel like?” Corey asked while thinking back to some of the worst moments.

Not all cases are as difficult as Nick's. Treatment and medications have come a long way and can be very effective.

Still, Nick's struggles are in the context of him having insurance and a supportive family.

Several others on the marathon don't.

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