mental health | KCUR

mental health

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.’”

Seg. 1: Smoking & Vaping Culture. Seg. 2: Carmaletta Williams

Jan 18, 2019

Segment 1: Cultural shifts in smoking and vaping.

With smoking banned in most public places — and vaping on the rise among teens — we look at the changing nature of smoking culture.

  • Chris Young, millennial smoker and KCUR assistant event producer
  • Kevin Kufeldt, program manager, Adolescent Center for Treatment at the Johnson County Mental Health Center

Segment 2, beginning at 33:30: Meet the new director of an organization dedicated to preserving local history.

Focus Features

Segment 1: River of Refuge is a nonprofit organization that helps transition homeless families into permanent housing.

Two Rivers Behavioral Health System, a free-standing psychiatric hospital in south Kansas City, will close on Feb. 9 and lay off 129 nurses, therapists and other employees.

The 105-bed facility at 5121 Raytown Road opened in 1986 and treated children, adolescents and adults for psychiatric and substance use disorders.

Susan Fitzpatrick, the hospital’s business director, said the decision to close the hospital was made by its corporate parent, Universal Health Services of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

Courtesy / Creative Commons

The merriment and mirth it's assumed we experience during the holiday season can lead to disappointment, anxiety and, in some cases, depression.

The American Psychological Association reports that the expectation of  “gift-giving, decorating, feasting and family gathering" can lead to holiday-related stress or the "holiday blues."

Flickr - CC

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed on behalf of an Olathe, Kansas, woman who was shot and killed by police in her boyfriend's home last August.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Read her lips

A month away from becoming the next governor of Kansas, Democrat Laura Kelly says she’s deep into budget preparation.

Although she’s been as steeped in the workings of state government as any Kansas wonk during her 14 years in the state Senate, the Topekan says agencies find themselves in worse repair than she imagined.

“The problems are broad,” she said, “and they’re deep.”

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Waiting for psych beds

The number of residential psychiatric wards in Kansas has dropped to 8 today from 17 in 2011 and now about a third as many beds are available for overnight care.

One factor has been a limit on the number of days the state’s privately managed Medicaid programs will authorize for a stay in one of the treatment centers.

So now some 140 children simply wait to get intense treatment for a range of potentially critical mental health problems.

A man with dark hair and a goatee wearing headphones and a charcoal jacket sits behind a microphone in a radio studio.
Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: Vince Ortega has a long history working with COMBAT and the Kansas City Police Department.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

More beds or more services

Legislators heard Wednesday that Kansas either needs to improve a range of services for the mentally ill or to be prepared to more than double the number of psychiatric beds available. Or both.

Today, the state offers 258 slots in mental health hospitals. Madeline Fox reports that’s down from more than 1,000 beds in 1990. A report from January says the state needs 300 more.

Jacob Joslyn / For KCUR 89.3

Of all the freedoms Anthony Flanagan lost during his eight years under state care, the right to vote was among the toughest.

Flanagan, a quadriplegic who was deemed unable to care for himself because of psychiatric issues, lived under a legal guardianship by the state of Missouri from 2008 to 2016. Often seen as protective of people incapacitated by mental illness or developmental disabilities, guardianship can also strip people of many rights the rest of us enjoy, including the right to vote.

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