mental health

A school classroom with desks and a chalkboard
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When school shootings occur, the country collectively asks: what needs to happen to keep students safe? What does it take to identify students who are struggling and get them support? Wyoming Public Radio’s education reporter Tennessee Watson sat down with University of Wyoming Professor of Counseling's Mary Alice Bruce and graduate student Ken Hilton to talk about how school counselors fit into the conversation about safe schools.

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More teen suicide threats than average have been reported to the emergency room in Teton County. Normally, there’s only a couple a year, but recently that number rose to 16 in a four-month period.

Previously, the hospital didn’t have an ideal space to handle such cases. It required kids to be held under guard for 24 hours and doctors and nurses weren't equipped to offer therapy.

By ProgWork1 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this fall, the University of Wyoming sent emails to law school students with concerns about the 37-year-old man who shot at police officers in Highlands Ranch, Colorado on Sunday morning.  

Matthew Riehl was a UW Law School graduate who at one time practiced law in Wyoming, and a veteran who served in Iraq. Matthew Riehl had been posting threatening and irrational statements about law school faculty, according to UW Police Chief Mike Samp.

Albany Community Health Clinic

Healthcare providers in Laramie say they’re seeing an increase in addiction. In response, the Albany Community Health Clinic -- which serves patients regardless of their ability to pay -- is adding mental health and substance abuse services to the comprehensive primary-care it offers. With a grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, the clinic is now able to hire additional mental health providers.

 

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Albany County Sheriff Dave O’Malley said in his first 30 years in law enforcement he encountered heroin only twice, but now illicit drugs -- including meth and cocaine -- are something his department deals with all the time.

 

For those individuals struggling with addiction who end up in the Albany County Detention Center, the immediate shift to sobriety can bring on intense physical and emotional stress, according to O’Malley. That’s why he wants to start offering inmates acupuncture to relieve the side effects of withdrawal.

From CollegeDegrees360 on Flickr.com

Wyoming will participate in a national initiative designed to improve how schools respond to the social and emotional needs of K-12 students. The state is one of nine awarded this opportunity, and Teton County will be the first district to participate.

Tennessee Watson

In the library of Sunflower Elementary school on Gillette’s southwest side, Dr. William Heineke is hard at work as a psychologist. He’s putting on two hats, with shorts over his pants, mismatched shoes, and instead of a pen, he tucks a toothbrush into his lapel. The Mardi Gras mask he’s putting on followed by his eye glasses might be deceiving, but this wild outfit is part of a serious effort to help troubled elementary school kids. They’ve been diagnosed with things like anxiety, depression, anger issues and are at risk for suicide.  

Victor Ashear

As we continue our series looking at serious mental health issues we turn our attention to a workbook intended to help those with these serious issues change their outlook.

Doctor Victor Ashear was a long time clinical psychologist at the Sheridan VA and a current private practitioner in Sheridan who deals with those who have serious mental illness. He is joined by his editor and former suicide prevention specialist Vanessa Hastings. Dr. Ashear’s book is called Self-Acceptance: The Key to Recovery from Mental Illness.  

Miles Bryan

Before you can buy a gun at Frontier Arms in Cheyenne, you have to fill out “Form 4473.” It asks questions like “Are you addicted to drugs?” and “Have you been convicted of a felony?” Owner Ryan Allen said, for most questions, there’s no use lying.

“In questions [where] we are talking about an actual crime, it's going to come up,” Allen said. “There are no if, ands, or buts about that.”

Miles Bryan

A few weeks after Cody officer Seth Horn went through Crisis Intervention Training, or “CIT,”  he went out on a call to see a man who was potentially suicidal.

“I started speaking with this person, and some things were lining up with the report that we got,” Horn said in a department conference room. “And then, using the training, I started to ask some very specific questions.”

Miles Bryan

Gillette mother Trish Simonson never wanted a tattoo. That changed when her son Kaden died by suicide last May. Now her left wrist is adorned with a Bible verse and a semicolon symbol, along with some text.

“It says Kaden: 5-8-15,” she said with her arm turned out. “And, ‘ask my story.’”

Trish’s twenty-five-year-old daughter Ashley has a fresh tattoo as well. She and her brother both loved Harry Potter, so a “Patronus”—a mythical creature from the books—is now inked on her right arm.

Bob Beck

Lots of people like to run and many have chosen to run marathons. But not that many have decided to run beyond that. One such person is gearing up for an upcoming 100 mile race that she’s running for the second time. There’s lots of ways Jennifer Bartel and her three kids and dog spend time together, but lately a lot of that family time has been spent running. Bartel runs a lot.

“I try to keep it right around 50 miles a week, mostly because when I boost it over that I start to feel really poor from my neck all the way down, so I stick right at 50 miles.  

Rebecca Huntington

Mental health. It's a topic that can be hard to talk about. So the National Council for Behavioral Health has taken a cue from successful CPR and first aid programs and designed a similar training to help everyday citizens know how to respond in a mental health crisis.

A half dozen Jackson community members are gathered in a classroom in the basement of St. John's Medical Center. Their instructor, Adam Williamson, has handed out poster-sized paper and markers and asked them to draw a picture of anxiety.

Bob Beck

Returning from military service back into so called normal society continues to be a challenge for many veterans.  It doesn’t help if they have difficulty getting Veterans Administration Services.  In Wyoming, the two VA hospitals have been criticized for the amount of time veterans need to wait to get care.  Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck reports that social service providers say they are trying to provide adequate services to a growing population of vets. 

In preparation for President Obama’s announcement proposing gun control legislation last week, Wyoming lawmakers acted fast to propose bills making any such law unenforceable in the state. Wyoming’s Congressional delegation has also said that this legislation is not the way to go.

Wyoming Representative Cynthia Lummis has said that it would be better to focus on services for mentally ill people.