mental health | KCUR

mental health

Segment 1: A Kansas native moderated the last Democratic debate in Iowa.

Brianne Pfannenstiel grew up in Lawrence and got her first job in journalism at the Kansas City Star. Now that she's in a state with a huge voice in this year's election, we wanted to know: How does she feel the Midwest is represented in national discourse today? What does she think of Iowa's role specifically? And, what is it like to moderate a national debate?

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — It typically took Walt Hill more than a year to recruit a psychiatrist to northwest Kansas. Now he doesn’t even bother.

Instead, the executive director of the High Plains Mental Health Center relies on out-of-state doctors willing to work remotely, treating patients through video conference.

For years, the center has used remote appointments with local psychiatrists to reach patients in far-flung corners of its coverage area, which spans 20 largely rural counties.

How To Be Less Lonely

Dec 23, 2019
Alex Smith / KCUR

A nationwide campaign is looking for solutions to loneliness.

For some of us, the holidays are full of family and friends. But this can also a lonely time of year for many. Health experts say loneliness can be hazardous to our health, though, and researchers in the United Kingdom are taking it seriously.

Join KCUR health reporter Alex Smith for an exploration of the UK's national program to address loneliness and find out what we in the Midwest can learn about fixing the problem.

Segment 1: Missouri does not enforce a 2008 federal law on mental health parity.

When President George W. Bush signed the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act in 2008, it established that health insurers must cover mental health the same as other medical conditions. Missouri remains one of only two states to not enforce that law with a state statute.

More people in Missouri are consulting doctors via telephone or video services — and mental health care is most in demand.

Patient visits using telephones or video conferencing systems have increased tenfold since 2010 among Missouri Medicaid users, according to the Missouri Telehealth Network at the University of Missouri. 

The vast majority of those visits were for behavioral or mental health services, said Rachel Mutrux, senior program director at the network. 

While local 4-H groups are known for summer programming, educator Julie Kreikemeier

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

When Dan Hoyt started graduate school at the University of Kansas in 2016, he knew he had anxiety and depression. He worried about being able to find a job after graduation. And, sometimes, he couldn’t get through his assigned reading.

“When you have anxieties, that gets impossible,” he said. “I'll think about the same things over and over and over again.”

But when he reached out to KU’s counseling services, he was told he had to wait five months before he could get an appointment with a therapist at the Lawrence campus. And getting there from KU’s Overland Park campus, where he took classes, complicated things.

MANHATTAN, Kansas — Millennials get blamed for killing off sports, drinks and entire industries. Those millennials — and their Gen Z successors — have also given rise to a new word: adulting.

Aging folks from the baby boom or Generation X enjoy ridiculing today's college students when those younger people can't change a tire or wash their clothes without turning to Mom or Dad.

Segment 1: One oncologist says cancer research is not progressing, and she offers new ideas.

Dr. Azra Raza says the public believes cancer research and treatments are advancing, but that's not the case. The death rate from the most common cancers is no lower now than it was 5o years ago. She suggests an alternative to radition and chemotherapy and says more interdisciplinary collaboration could advance the cause.

Shattered: A First-Hand Look At Life After Being Shot

Sep 25, 2019
Tyrone Turner / WAMU

Of the estimated 300 people in the United States who are shot on an average day, about 200 survive. But many of them do so with devastating physical and emotional scars that last a lifetime.

Their ailments range from paralysis and possible lead poisoning, to crippling anxiety attacks and depression.

Eleven survivors of gun violence tell their stories in their own words in Shattered: Life After Being Shot.

Every individual’s story is paired with a portrait — a composite — using a “stitching” technique that combines multiple pictures.

Jamie Hobbs / KCUR 89.3

Public defense attorneys are often overworked and underpaid, leaving them vulnerable to negative mental health consequences.

“I have a number of lawyers who will talk about their anxiety… waking up at night, or family issues,” says Ruth Petsch, who oversees the Kansas City public defenders office.

Each of the office's 35 attorneys is assigned 100 or more cases, and the pressure is steadily getting worse.

Segment 1: Heavy caseloads and long hours are taking a toll on Missouri's public defenders.

Officials say public defenders in Kansas City, Missouri, are sometimes handling more than 100 cases at a time, and staffing and workload situations have been dire for years. We speak with leaders of the public defender's office to find out how those pressures are affecting attorneys' mental health and the ability of clients to get a fair trial.

Courtest of Melanie Arroyo

Latinos seek help for mental health issues at half the rate of non-Hispanic whites. Yet when they do, as with other people of color in Kansas City, they can have more difficulty finding providers with a similar cultural background. 

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

One in five Americans deals with a mental health issue. However for people of color, being a person of color itself takes a toll on mental health.

Studies show that discrimination and microagressions can negatively effect the health of blacks, Hispanics, Indigenous people and Asians. 

Segment 1: Nursing homes in Kansas can be a "black hole" for people with mental illness 

Red flags are being raised about a lack of mental health resources in Kansas, and the affect it's having on people's ability to move into independent living situations. In that state, patients who don't need to be institutionalized but aren't quite ready for independence sometimes end up in nursing homes. The problem is keeping that stop-gap measure from becoming permanent.

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / Side Effects Public Media

It’s the middle of summer but Harrisburg Middle School is a hive of activity. Between summer school classes and renovations, it’s a little chaotic for counselor Brett Rawlings, who just wrapped up his first year at the school.

Harrisburg is a town of fewer than 300 people, midway between St. Louis and Kansas City. But the school also serves the surrounding area, which is primarily farmland. As the K-8 counselor, Rawlings is responsible for some 400 students, and he deals with a range of issues.

It’s the middle of summer but Harrisburg Middle School is a hive of activity. Between summer school classes and renovations, it’s a little chaotic for counselor Brett Rawlings, who just wrapped up his first year at the school.

Harrisburg is a town of fewer than 300 people, midway between St. Louis and Kansas City. But the school also serves the surrounding area, which is primarily farmland. As the K-8 counselor, Rawlings is responsible for some 400 students, and he deals with a range of issues.


Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

It's not often that a candidate quitting a local mayor's race would get national media attention, but that's exactly what happened last October when Jason Kander announced he was dropping his bid to be Kansas City's chief executive.

Segment 1: A hopeful billboard has a story behind it.

When artist Nicole Leth lost her father to suicide, she told herself she would focus all her energy on spreading positivity. Now a billboard in Kansas City stands testament to that promise.

  • Nicole Leth, artist

Segment 2: A Kansas City musician rocks the violin in her new EP.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

KANSAS CITY, KAN. — Susan Haynes used to have panic attacks seven times a day.

Sometimes, she would fall out of her chair. Sometimes, she would stop breathing.

“I could just fall down, just collapse and look like I was having a seizure or stroke,” she said. “It was pretty scary.”

Segment 1: Jackson County reassessment disrupting more than property values

Though the Jackson County reassessment mess has been about market price, it is the people who own the homes and businesses who are most deeply affected. Three Jackson County residents discussed how their neighborhoods have reacted and the real-life implications for them and their neighbors should the new valuations stand. 

Segment 1: A former Lenexa principal wants others suffering from mental illness to learn from the mistakes he made trying to handle his depression.

Diagnosed with major depressive disorder, Cory Strathman resigned from his job as an elementary school principal following a DUI arrest. Now receiving mental health care services, Strathman is sharing his battle in hopes to eliminate the social stigma that kept him from receiving care.

Segment 1: Why the Federal Emergency Managment Agency recommends flood coverage for everyone.

Flooding occurs in 90% of natural disasters in the United States, according to FEMA, and a quarter of all flood claims come from low-risk areas. We cover common questions about what is and isn't covered by flood and homeowners insurance, and discuss what the future of flood insurance might look like.

Camilo Rueda Lopez / (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Social workers can perform a myriad of tasks. Some check on children in abusive homes and some train foster families. Others support patients through medical procedures like kidney dialysis or provide talk therapy to mental health patients.

But there are too few of them in Kansas.

Seg. 1: Mental Health & Young Adults. Seg. 2: Chess In The Midwest

Mar 11, 2019

Segment 1: How your 20s are fertile ground for mental illness.

The American College Health Association reports that more than 60 percent of college students had experienced 'overwhelming anxiety' in 2018. But more of them are also seeking help. So what's changing-- the circumstances causing the anxiety, or the culture around asking for help?

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

In 2017 in Missouri,  75 children and teenagers killed themselves — the most on record, according to an analysis of the most recent available data for the state.

That same year in Kansas, 99 young people took their own lives. Another record.

Segment 1: MU professor finds that eye behavior can provide mental health analysis.

They say eyes are a window to your soul. But according to a University of Missouri researcher, they're also a window to your stress level.

Segment 2, beginning at 12:44: Local mom shares her story about changing her mind on a controversial issue: vaccines.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

This story is KCUR's contribution to a collaborative reporting project from Sharing America called Fixed Odds, exploring the impact of problem gambling on communities of color and the extent to which states provide money for treatment.

Tribal casinos receive a lot of attention. What doesn’t receive as much attention is the higher incidence of problem gambling among Native Americans compared to the rest of the population.

Segment 1: What does this week's extreme cold mean for people without a home?

In the frigid cold Wednesday night, The Greater Kansas City Coalition to End Homelessness conducted their annual "point-in-time" survey with the goal of estimating the number of people experiencing homelessness in Kansas City. In this conversation, we hear first impressions on the survey results as well as perspective from a woman currently experiencing homelessness.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

Nicole Nesmith’s voice shakes a little when she recalls the night her child, Phoenix, revealed a painful secret.

“Phoenix got really quiet and was like, ‘I have something to tell you and I’m really sorry I didn’t tell you sooner, but I’ve been cutting for about a month now.’”

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