mental health | KNKX

mental health

Elise Bakketun / Courtesy of Seattle Children's Theatre

As freshmen crowd onto the bleachers in the gym at Tyee High School in SeaTac, it's hard not to imagine boring assemblies where people act out "real problems" that seem to magically go away when someone tells a "trusted adult."

The play "Ghosted" isn't really like that. It features four high schoolers who learn to talk to each other about their struggles.

Will James / KNKX

Hundreds of young people in Washington who seek help for mental health problems or substance abuse end up homeless or near homeless after leaving treatment, according to a study that claims to reveal a lack of planning and coordination by the state.

Gov. Jay Inslee
Ted S. Warren / AP file

Gov. Jay Inslee is rolling out his proposed budget for the next two years, covering everything from climate change and mental health to orca recovery. Olympia correspondent Austin Jenkins talked in depth about some of the details on Morning Edition with Kirsten Kendrick. 

On a recent evening in Vancouver, Washington, more than 80 people gathered at the local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They were there for a forum organized by a fledging group of moms whose severely mentally ill children have struggled to get the help they need in Washington state — sometimes with deadly consequences.

“We are all part of a tribe that we have joined whether we wanted to or not,” mother Jerri Clark told the packed room.

The 64 year-old veteran and cycling coach paddling to Alaska is doing so to raise awareness for his homelessness outreach efforts.
Keith LaPlante

Steve Rhoades will soon be on his way to Alaska. On June 14, he will leave his home on Bainbridge Island with nothing but survival supplies, a twenty-foot paddelboard and his hands — his motor of choice for a more than 750-mile naval journey.

madamepsychosis / Flickr

Across the country, people are debating how to prevent mass shootings like the one that happened Feb. 14 at a Florida high school. Many people are pushing for tighter gun laws. There’s also an acknowledgement that young people who are struggling emotionally need more help, and one way people can help is to take a youth mental health first aid class.

"Providence Saint Peter Hospital in Olympia, Washington" by M.O. Stevens is licensed under CC by 2.0

An Olympia woman died after paramedics sedated her while she suffered an apparent mental health crisis early Wednesday morning, police said.

Officers encountered the 35-year-old woman as they responded to a fire alarm at an apartment building on Fern Street Southwest in West Olympia. Firefighters said the woman pulled the fire alarm at about 1:05 a.m.

Police said she was acting strangely, and believed her to be a threat to herself or others, so officers put her in hand restraints. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Pierce County is losing one quarter of its 64 psychiatric hospital beds for a year, as a provider relocates from its rented space at Western State Hospital. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Pierce County, claiming jail inmates with mental illness are treated poorly and denied access to care. 

Will James / KNKX

Pierce County's proposed 2018 budget includes a number of programs aimed at combating the interconnected crises of homelessness, addiction and mental illness. 

Among them: A plan to offer homeless people jobs as day laborers. 

"Joe rises" by Jason Taellious is licensed under CC by 2.0

Bruce Dammeier ascended to the Pierce County Executive's Office just months after a report found the county lacked a well-connected and accessible mental health care system. 

Dammeier’s plan for improving the system starts with a pair of vans.

He wants the county to operate two specially-equipped vehicles carrying trained staff who would rush to help people in a mental health crisis. 

Last year, gun violence shook communities in Marysville and on Whidbey Island, Washington. Some lawmakers in Olympia said it was the result of inadequate mental health resources.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The mental health system in Washington state has had its fair share of troubles. And Gov. Jay Inslee wants $300 million in hopes of “fixing” many of the problems.


Discussions about mental health are happening in Olympia during this year’s legislative session. And while much of the focus is on ways to improve state-run facilities, the staff at Seattle P-I found a deeper look is needed at the local level as well, especially when it comes to county jails.


Courtesy of PracticeWise

Aaron Beck was 19 years old, depressed, and almost out of hope when he decided to try therapy for the first time.

"I was skeptical," he said. "It was kind of my last chance. If it didn't work, I didn't think anything would, and I was ready to just let things in."

He turned to Community Youth Services in Olympia, an organization that provides mental health care, among other services, to teenagers and young adults.


Pierce County lawmakers this week voted down a sales tax that would have raised an estimated $10 million for mental health and substance abuse programs.

The South Sound county will remain the only one of Washington's densely-populated counties without the 1/10 of 1 percent sales tax for mental health. Twenty-two of Washington's 39 counties have the tax, along with the city of Tacoma.

Leaders of a Tacoma-based health system have launched a new unit for teenagers in psychiatric crisis, calling it a more peaceful alternative to the emergency room. 

The 27-bed Mary Bridge Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit opened its doors Tuesday at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital. 

Acknowledging that "there is more work to be done" to ensure that patients with mental illness and addiction don't face discrimination in their health care, a presidential task force made a series of recommendations Friday including $9.3 million in funding to improve enforcement of the federal parity law.

After a mother killed her four young children and then herself last month in rural China, onlookers quickly pointed to life circumstances.

The family lived in extreme poverty, and bloggers speculated that her inability to escape adversity pushed her over the edge.

Can poverty really cause mental illness?

It's a complex question that is fairly new to science. Despite high rates of both poverty and mental disorders around the world, researchers only started probing the possible links about 25 years ago.

Courtesy of Pierce County

More than half of Washington's 39 counties have a special sales tax funding mental health and substance abuse programs. 

Among the state's urban counties, Pierce County is the exception. Leaders there have resisted enacting tax the one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax for years. 

But with homelessness and addiction on the rise, some county leaders are looking to change that.

This story is part of our NPR Ed series on mental health in schools.

Patricia Tolson has some visitors.

Two 5-year-old girls, best-friends, hold hands in her office at Van Ness Elementary School in Washington D.C., one complaining she doesn't feel well. Tolson, the school nurse, asks, "How long has your stomach been hurting?"

Part of our NPR Ed series on mental health in schools.

Every Monday morning at Harvie Elementary School, in Henrico County, Va., Brett Welch stands outside her office door as kids file in.

"The first thing I'm looking for are the faces," says Welch, a school counselor. She's searching for hints of fear, pain or anger.

"Maybe there was a domestic incident at the house that weekend," says Welch. "That's reality for a lot of our kids."

Part One in an NPR Ed series on mental health in schools.

You might call it a silent epidemic.

Up to one in five kids living in the U.S. shows signs or symptoms of a mental health disorder in a given year.

So in a school classroom of 25 students, five of them may be struggling with the same issues many adults deal with: depression, anxiety, substance abuse.

Thomas Hawk/Flickr

Across the country, people with serious mental illness are ending up in county jails in large numbers. A national survey out today highlights the extent of the problem. This comes at a time when Washington state is in trouble over how it deals with mentally ill inmates.

There are a lot of people suffering from a mental health condition who need therapy. And there are a lot of therapists who want to help them. But both sides believe the insurance companies that are supposed to bring them together are actually keeping them apart.

Insurance companies, for their part, say there's a shortage of therapists.

But it's not that simple. Especially in urban areas, there are lots of therapists. They just don't want to work with the insurance companies.

Mental illness has been part of human society throughout recorded history, but how we care for people with mental disorders has changed radically, and not always for the better.

In Colonial days, settlers lived in sparsely populated rural communities where sanctuary and community support enabled the tradition of family care brought from England. "Distracted persons" were acknowledged, but erratic behavior wasn't associated with disease.

Patricia Becerril comes to Bethesda Health Center in Charlotte, N.C., every other week. And it's a slog.

"It takes her two hours to get here," says University of North Carolina at Charlotte master's student Katherine Wilkin, translating from the Spanish as Becerril speaks. "She takes two buses, so coming here, she's definitely devoted to getting this treatment. She comes every time."

Wilkin is Becerril's mental health counselor, and Becerril says Wilkin has helped her deal with depression.

Coffee Shop Serves Up A Sense Of Belonging

Jun 6, 2016
Maddie Bernard

The connection between a local coffee shop and a community's mental health seems unlikely, but that is exactly what convinced a local nurse to purchase Northern Pacific Coffee Company in South Pierce County.

Delaney Ruston


Several years ago Delaney Ruston, a doctor who specializes in internal medicine, started to notice that most of the kids coming into her office were glued to a screen.

Experiencing the world as a different gender than the one assigned to you at birth can take a toll. Nearly all research into transgender individuals' mental health shows poorer outcomes. A study looking specifically at transgender women, predominantly women of color, only further confirms that reality.