mental health

Since BPR launched "The Porch" last summer, the news team has produced episodes centered on racial justice movements, policing, the insurrection on the US Capitol, all of this and more, while also navigating an unprecedented global pandemic. 

This episode is a little different.  We invited listeners to submit funny stories from the past year and compiled them into this episode and online. It’s a community gathering we’re calling “Viral Humor.” 

We’ve all felt it. The awkwardness of talking, or shouting, at a cashier through layers of masks and plexiglass. The toddler running around in the background of someone’s Zoom call. The stinging sensation of the gobs of hand sanitizer seeping into our chapped hands. 

This is not to say, of course, that the pandemic is funny. No, Covid-19 hurt, all of us. Many of us lost loved ones, struggled with isolation, lost our jobs, put dreams on hold. And it’s not over, we are very much still in this. 

But if this show aims to do anything, it’s say “hey, it’s okay if you’re not okay.” And it turns out, laughter -- a little comedy -- can help us cope. It’s the ultimate expression of human resilience. 

First up, we'll hear from an expert. David Perdue is an Atlanta-based comedian. He’s performed on Kevin Hart Presents: "Hart of the City" on Comedy Central and the Laugh Your Asheville Comedy Festival. He’ll be returning to Asheville later this month to perform with Modelface Comedy.

Then, we'll hear stories submitted by listeners, Moth Story Slam winner Alison Fields, and local therapists and songwriters M.E. Springelmeyer and Colton Sankey.

"Covid changed the way we perceive everything.  My "well this is different" moment happened in October. I'd had Covid that went into pneumonia.  I tested negative, so I wasn't shedding virus when I went to a small business in Hendersonville to pick up an order.  Of course, I was coughing my fool head off from the pneumonia.  Everyone was giving me stink eye. I assured them "don't worry, it's not covid, it's just pneumonia." Everyone nodded and went back to shopping, then we all started to laugh. What a world when "pneumonia" is GOOD news!"

- Collette Mak, Hendersonville

 

"Last fall I was checking out at a supermarket using the self-service aisle and I saw a man who seemed to be following all the precautions. He was masked and wore medical-type gloves. He was clearly aware of the CDC guidelines. He scanned his groceries and put them in the bagging area, then tried to open a plastic bag without success, so he pulled down his mask and licked a finger. I almost said something."

- Cecil Bothwell, Asheville

"Face masks often make it more difficult to understand each other’s words. This was vividly illustrated to me when I stopped at the customer service desk at my neighborhood Ingles grocery store to pick up some lottery tickets. I asked for “Two Powerball.” The nice young lady behind the counter handed me two packs of Pall Mall."

 

- Bob Woolley, Asheville

 "At 76, I was lucky enough to be one of the first Brevardians to receive the Covid-19 vaccination. On January 13th, one week after the insurrection at the Capitol, I entered the outside door to the Community Room of the Transylvania Regional Library and was vaccinated. As I walked to the recovery waiting area, I noticed two police officers, one sitting on each side of the door to the main part of the Library. I asked if they had just been vaccinated, and one of them replied, “No, we are here in case a mob of irate octogenarians storm the Clinic demanding the vaccine.""

Illustration by Omileye Achikeobi-Lewis

 

 

The recent death of George Floyd, as well as countless other officer-involved killings of African Americans, bears a significant cost to the mental health of black and brown communities. One clinical mental health counselor in Asheville says part of the solution starts with mindfulness. 

Lilly Knoepp

  Mental healthcare providers say that increased anxiety and a shorter fuse are normal during COVID-19 stress.  BPR talked with one provider for rural Western North Carolina about what it’s like to deal with a pandemic – and help others through it: 

 

Meridian Behavioral Health Services serves the seven westernmost counties of North Carolina. Like anywhere else, life looks very different now for the organization’s health care providers:

 

“Pretty much everything has changed since COVID-19.”

 

Cass Herrington / BPR News

A drug approved earlier this year by the FDA could help individuals who’ve had limited success with antidepressants. 

Samantha Calderón-Colón / BPR News

Healthcare providers that cater services to seasonal and migrant farmworkers in Western North Carolina are increasingly turning their attention to mental healthcare. 

Samantha Calderón-Colón / BPR News

Migrant farmworkers in rural areas face a lot of pressure -- from language barriers, to geographic isolation, to the current political climate surrounding immigration.  Add in the limited access to mental healthcare in rural locales, it puts workers who travel to Western North Carolina for the harvest season in an even tougher position.  

Picture of the Flatiron building, a seven-story building in downtown Asheville with some older architectural trappings and window designs. A tree borders the left side.
Cass Herrington / BPR News

Around one in four Buncombe County residents reported having more than a week of poor mental health in a month, according to a 2018 report by the county's Health and Human Services Department. Finding and affording a therapist are two barriers for treatment, but historically marginalized communities also face cultural stigma and a lack of providers who share their experiences.


North Carolina doesn't have enough school nurses or counselors, and that's impacting child health across the state. The North Carolina Institute of Medicine and the advocacy group N.C. Child gave the state "D" grades for school health and mental health on its Child Health Report Card.

Matt Bush BPR

Nearly all counties in Western Carolina are now home to self-serve kiosks where people can learn more about mental illness – and determine whether they might be suffering from one.  The kiosks are really just a computer screen, with no keyboard and a phone is attached to the screen.  With just a few touches on the screen, users can learn the symptoms of several common mental health conditions says Jessie Smathers of Vaya Health, which helped place the kiosks around the region.

Clean Slate Coalition

For many female inmates, having stability, or even just a place to call home upon their release, is not a sure thing. But one Western North Carolina group is working to change that—one woman at a time.  

Hoarding $70 million in Medicaid money that should be spent on patients while spending lavishly on CEO pay and luxury board retreats. These are just some of the findings laid out in a state audit of Cardinal Innovations Healthcare. The company says the spending is justified.

All 13 of North Carolina's representatives in the U.S. House voted in favor of an overhaul of the country's mental health system Wednesday. The bill gained momentum this year in part because of mass shootings.