mental health

Rhonda J. Miller

The time we're living in now might be thought of as “pandemic recovery.”

After 15 months of shutdowns, stress and isolation, Kentucky is open for business and there's a welcome return to social activities. 

Schools will be fully in-person for the new academic year in the fall.

But the anxiety many children experienced during the pandemic is not likely to be washed away in the water parks and swimming pools of summer. 

WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with Tanner Steelman, a licensed clinical social worker who is mental health supervisor for Bowling Green City Schools

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The COVID-19 pandemic has sickened more than 450,000 Kentuckians and claimed the lives of more than 7,000 people in the Bluegrass State.

Along with the devastating physical illness came an unprecedented storm of stress, confusion and grief. 

Many Kentuckians suffered, and continue to experience, mental health issues in the lingering shadow of the pandemic.

One place many people turn to for support is LifeSkills. It’s the public, nonprofit community mental health center based in Bowling Green that serves the 10-county Barren River region in southern Kentucky.

Dan Meyers/Unsplash

A new support group in Henderson is aimed at helping people who have lost a loved one to suicide.

The group’s founder, Cindy Weaver, said it’s called Infinite Hope because people who take their own lives have lost hope. 

Weaver said she’s met many survivors who haven’t sought help for the trauma and grief that followed the death of their friend or family member. 

“We want to be able, through our support groups and walking alongside the survivors to know they don’t have to go through this alone, help to restore hope back into their lives again, so they can move into a life that feels purposeful and has meaning in it once again,” said Weaver.

Henderson Community College

Henderson Community College is increasing support for students facing personal challenges that might have been intensified by the emotional and physical stress of the year-long COVID-19 pandemic.

The college has opened a new one-stop center offering support for issues that could prevent academic success. 

The HCC Care Center may be small in size, but it offers students connections to a big range of community services.

Career Services Coordinator Angie Watson said the HCC Care Center can help with a wide range of  issues.

“Substance disorders, domestic violence, housing issues, mental and physical issues that they may be facing," said Watson. "We’ve got some great mental health facilities that can assist them and offer crisis counseling.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased stress in many parts of life for families in Kentucky and around the nation.

During pandemic, the 211 hotline in the Daviess County region has received thousands of calls from people looking for assistance on a wide range of concerns.

The 211 contact line connects area residents to community resources on issues including housing, utility bills, food, health care, and mental health services. 

In the past year, the 211 line has received more than 16,000 calls. More than 5,000 of those calls were received in the last 90 days. 

Owensboro Community Development Director Abby Shelton said the majority of calls were related to housing and shelter, with most of those related to rental assistance. She said the pandemic has created a national struggle that’s definitely hit hard in Kentucky.

Henderson County Schools

The isolation and uncertainty caused by COVID-19 is stressful for adults, but it can be even more upsetting for young people.

The Henderson County school system is offering counseling for students, and workshops for adults to help them get through the pandemic.  

In addition to school guidance counselors, Henderson County Schools have seven mental health counselors. Four of the seven are funded by a federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMSA.  

The funding is for Project AWARE, which is to increase knowledge about mental health-related issues in the community.  

Creative Commons

A mental health counselor at Western Kentucky University is urging families to improvise this holiday season in place of their traditional gatherings. 

From cooking and shopping, to gift-giving and holiday parties, COVID-19 is replacing the typical stress of the season with loneliness and anxiety. 

Lacretia Dye is a licensed counselor and professor at Western Kentucky University.  In an interview with WKU Public Radio, Dye said it’s important to have the right perspective to avoid feeling depressed or isolated.

“How can we reframe it and say this is a challenge?" she asked. "I’m not able to do it how I usually do it, but what’s another way he could creatively do it? Perhaps we could do it over the phone or talk about what we plan to do next year.”

Courtesy of State Representative Lisa Willner Facebook Page

Many individuals who need mental health in the Ohio Valley are not receiving it. 

Kentucky State Rep. Lisa Willner, a Louisville Democrat and licensed psychologist, listed many potential solutions in a conversation with WKU Public Radio.

Among them were "Tim's Law," which requires some people hositalized with a mental health incident to receive treatment.

Willner also explained why there's a disparity in care for physical and mental health. 


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.

Flickr/Creative Commons/401(K) 2012

The Brentwood Springs treatment center in southern Indiana does its best to remove the stigma from mental health. The space looks modern, the cafeteria smells like tasty food, and you may hear the sounds of a guitar coming from creative therapy down the hall.

Courtesy of Steve Meyers

A retired U.S. Army veteran working to raise awareness about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is bringing his message to Fort Knox on Friday.

Sergeant First Class Stephen Meyers is walking across the country as part of a campaign to alert the public to mental health issues facing veterans and many others.

His speech with Fort Knox coincides as the U.S. Army Human Resources Command is stepping up efforts to promote physical and mental well-being through it's "Risk Reduction Program." That effort is an ongoing year-long campaign taking a prevention-focused approach to issues like PTSD and subsquent dangers, like suicide.

Rhonda Miller

Some Kentucky legislators want to raise awareness about suicide among farmers.

House Bill 59 would declare the third Wednesday of September, “Farmer Suicide Prevention Day” to bring awareness to mental health challenges that farmers face.

“This issue has been around for a long time. It’s just that it really hasn’t gotten the attention that it deserves and is, often times, a hard conversation to have,” said Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles.

Quarles said the bill is designed to start those conversations about suicide.

flickr/Joe Houghton

Thirteen school districts in the Green River region of Kentucky are adding mental health counselors funded by a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The federal grant of nearly $4 million has been awarded to the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative.

Associate Executive Director Melissa Biggerstaff said the organization previously focused on academic support, and this is the first time it’s focusing on mental health.

Adam Hatcher/GEO International

Educators in the Bowling Green and Warren County school systems worry there’s a growing need for mental health resources aimed at helping refugee students. Many of those students living in southern Kentucky are adjusting to their new lives after facing trauma in their previous homes.

When refugees arrive in the United States, they’ve often been living in refugee camps for a decade or more.

Former Warren County educator Skip Cleavinger said students who are coming from war-torn areas often aren’t prepared to learn. That's because many of them are still dealing with the trauma of being forced out of their home country. 

The Federal Communications Commission is proposing to launch a new three-digit hotline for people who are feeling suicidal or are going through any other mental health crisis. It recommends making 988 the new national number to call for help, replacing the current 10-digit number.

The agency presented the idea to Congress in a report earlier this month and is expected to release more information and seek public comment about the proposal in the coming months.