Commentary #77: “There’s a severe shortage of mental health professionals in rural areas. Here’s why that’s a serious problem.”

Mental Health - Quotefancy

Image Credit: Quotefancy

I recently read another CNN article that I felt was worthy of sharing. It was published on June 20, 2018.

Here’s the link to the article:


For years, I’ve been fascinated with the Appalachian region of the United States. Part of it is because my grandmother (Mom’s mom) was raised in West Virginia, and other extended family members have lived in West Virginia and Kentucky, to name a few states.

The mountains are beautiful. Grandma Grace was raised during The Great Depression, and they survived. I have vague memories of visiting Great-Grandma Laura Bethany (whom I’m named after) on her farm in Ripley, and seeing Mom’s aunt’s and cousins in Beckley. These two areas aren’t deep in the mountains, but you can definitely see and feel the hills and valleys.

With all that said, Ripley and Beckley are small, but mighty. Other areas of West Virginia, and other states in the Appalachian region, have certainly struggled with the volatility of the coal mining industry, among other issues. The limited amount of research I’ve done shows years of struggles with poverty, unemployment, access to health care, and more. However, the Appalachian people are steadfast. I don’t want to be prejudicial, but research-based.

Along with difficulties accessing quality health care, and affording that care, mental health care is somewhat tied to that. It’s fascinating, as well as immensely frightening.

When I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in the summer of 2015, I started taking a bigger interest in mental health, including news articles about the topic. I’m grateful that I have a stable job, with good health insurance, and access to good mental health resources and services.

I’ve seen several counselors since I was in college, for a variety of reasons, but the counselor who diagnosed me with GAD was a watershed moment for me. She helped me unpack a variety of issues that were causing significant stress, and in turn, contributing to my anxiety. I’ve been able to better understand GAD, and to work to figure out the best ways to limit and control my anxiety. It’s a daily exercise, but I’m proud to say that I’m not taking any medication, and I’m able to live a fairly productive life thanks to a powerful and helpful support system. I realize that my situation is very unique, and I’m grateful for everything!


The article is packed with statistics. I won’t go through all of them, but the main point is a majority of non-metropolitan counties do not have a psychiatrist, and nearly half do not have a psychologist. The best definition of a non-metropolitan county that I could find is one that does not have a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and has a population of 10,000 or less (Health Resources & Services Administration).

One of the interviewees, a clinical psychologist, pointed out that many rural areas only have generalists, i.e., primary care providers (PCPs), and there’s little to no specialized care. People are left on their own due to a lack of community mental health care, and nearby relevant hospital services.

The services that are available are focused on crisis intervention, not prevention. These services attempt to address the crisis as it’s happening, but nothing is available to prevent the crisis.

In addition to the lack of services and resources, health care funding cuts are exacerbating this problem. Roughly 80 rural hospitals closed between 2010 and 2017. Hundreds more are at risk.

Another problem the rural population faces is isolation. Isolation can spark downward spirals, which can lead to drug addiction, overdoses, depression, and suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), rural areas have a higher suicide rate than non-rural areas, which has been widening since 2001.

This is a significantly complex and challenging problem that can’t be addressed with a single solution. However, there’s one bright spot that is starting to emerge – Telebehavioral health. The article provided the example of a patient in Wyoming “seeing” a psychologist in Pennsylvania via virtual sessions and online portals.

As promising as telebehavioral health appears, the article points out a host of other issues that rural residents face. Access to the Internet is one, being proficient with computers / technology another, and having the financial resources to access these mental health professionals.

To me, there needs to be a series of steps to tackle these issues. I don’t have all the answers, and I try to be as objective as possible.

There needs to be consistent investment in mental health services across the U.S. Every rural area that does not have a psychiatrist or psychologist should probably have at least one of each. The currently practicing doctors should be linked up to the existing mental health services, as well as be / become advocates for improving those services. Continued work to reduce the stigma of mental illness, addiction, and other mental health issues will also be beneficial.

Those support systems that people turn to in the event of a crisis – Family, friends, ministers, chaplains, and even first responders – should also have connections to mental health services. More mental health training for these support systems, specialized if possible, is also a good idea.

Throughout the network of ideas and potential solutions, the idea of making and sustaining connections and cooperation appears to be a common theme. In order to help the neediest residents, everyone involved with helping them should be educated, connected, and cooperative.

Example: Someone in a rural area is struggling with isolation and drug addiction, and overdoses. When the family member calls for an ambulance, the first responders take the resident to the local or nearest hospital. While recovering in the hospital, a series of people work behind the scenes to quickly identify others that can help – Family members, the hospital chaplain, the resident’s pastor, the resident’s primary care physician, and anyone else. Together, this network of resources work together to locate the nearest psychiatrist or psychologist, or even the nearest behavioral health center. The idea is to build a strong support system to get the resident the best mental health services possible.

This is strictly an example, but ideally, there needs to multiple levels of support and accountability for this to work. Every situation is different – Sometimes there’s no family, no primary care physician, difficulty accessing a behavioral health center, among other things. Regardless, if we invest in building these networks and support systems, maybe there can be a shift in crisis prevention, and less crisis intervention.


For more information, check out these resources. Several of these were also cited in the article.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

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Getting Personal #129: July Goals

BeautyBeyondBones 11

Image Credit: BeautyBeyondBones

Hello, July!

Al recently reminded me that Christmas is less than six months away. It’s wild. Every year gets faster!


Here are my goals for the month of July:

  1. See Ant-Man and the Wasp.
  2. Curb my spending.
  3. See Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.
  4. Submit our adoption application to Old Dominion Greyhound Adoption.
  5. See Mission: Impossible – Fallout.
  6. Spend at least two hours cleaning the garage.
  7. Make sure the Household Bills Spreadsheet is updated before the end of the month.
  8. Spend at least three hours working within Evernote.
  9. Meal plan as much as possible for the month.
  10. Participate in Camp NaNoWriMo, July 2018.
  11. Update my TBR.
  12. Start another writing challenge.
  13. Plan a special challenge for the month of August!

Here’s the breakdown:

See Ant-Man and the Wasp.

  • We can’t wait to see this! Hopefully next weekend.

Curb my spending.

  • I went a bit overboard during the month of June, so I’m placing similar spending restrictions on myself like I did during the month of May. This will give me time to go through my closet again, my bookshelves, and our garage!
  • Goals: (1) No more new clothes, (2) no more new books, and (3) no more American Girl items.

See Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.

  • I’m looking forward to taking my mom to see this one!

Submit our adoption application to Old Dominion Greyhound Adoption.

  • Now that our HVAC work is complete, we’re ready to submit our application! We’re excited to add a furry member to our family.

See Mission: Impossible – Fallout.

  • This is a tradition of ours – We’ve seen almost Mission: Impossible movie in the theaters since we’ve been dating.

Spend at least two hours cleaning the garage.

  • There are still way too many boxes in our attached garage, mostly my stuff! It’s high time to go through as much of it as I can.

Make sure the Household Bills Spreadsheet is updated before the end of the month.

  • I’m determined to keep up with this spreadsheet on a monthly basis.

Spend at least three hours working within Evernote.

  • I really liked my introduction to Evernote last month, so I’m determined to spend more time with it and get more comfortable with it.

Meal plan as much as possible for the month.

  • I have several recipes that I want to try this month!

Participate in Camp NaNoWriMo, July 2018.

  • After my rousing success with my first Camp in April, I’m so excited to be participating in Camp again!
  • Look for another Camp NaNoWriMo recap at the beginning of August!

Update my TBR.

  • It’s that time again! Look for my updated TBR post very soon.

Start another writing challenge.

  • I’m hoping to have the first post ready tomorrow!

Plan a special challenge for the month of August!

  • I don’t want to give anything away, but I’m partnering with a special blogger friend to make a fun challenge for August!

Do you have any goals for the month of July?

If so, I’d love to hear about them!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #128: June Goals Recap

Concrete road

Image Credit: BeautyBeyondBones

June was quite busy, but less hectic than some other months! The biggest news is we FINALLY have proper ductwork, and two new HVAC units! Perfect timing for the typical summer heat waves!!

Here’s the link to my June Goals post:

Ready?

Here we go!


  1. Attend P.E.O. State Convention. — Accomplished!
  2. See Incredibles 2. — Accomplished!
  3. See Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. — Accomplished!
  4. Work on a goals list with Al for the remainder of 2018. — Did not accomplish.
  5. Update the Household Bills spreadsheet. — Semi-Achieved.
  6. Write at least 1,000 new words for my 2012 NaNoWriMo endeavor. — Accomplished!
  7. Download Evernote. — Accomplished!
  8. Host a “vacationing doll” from Ohio! — Accomplished!

Here’s the breakdown:

Attend P.E.O. State Convention. — Accomplished!

See Incredibles 2. — Accomplished!

  • Al and I went to see it on Saturday, June 15th.
  • It wasn’t necessarily better than the original movie. However, it was worth the 14-year wait.
  • If you’re a fan of the original movie, it’s worth seeing it in the theaters. We also liked the short that preceded the movie.

See Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. — Accomplished!

  • We saw the movie on Sunday, June 24th with our friends Mike and Shana.
  • Despite some of the criticism, I really like what they did with this movie. I shut my eyes a few times – Some of it was pretty scary!
  • I personally recommend seeing it. I love the franchise!

Work on a goals list with Al for the remainder of 2018. — Did not accomplish.

  • This didn’t happen. Oh well!

Update the Household Bills spreadsheet. — Semi-Achieved.

  • I started playing catch-up last weekend, and will hopefully bring it to conclusion this weekend. Long overdue!

Write at least 1,000 new words for my 2012 NaNoWriMo endeavor. — Accomplished!

  • Word count, as of May 2nd: 33,507
  • June 16th: Added 623 words
  • Word count, as of June 16th: 34,130
  • June 23rd: Added 339 words
  • Word count, as of June 23rd: 34,469
  • June 29th: Added 250 words
  • Word count, as of June 30th: 34,719
  • Total words written: 1,212 words!

Download Evernote. — Accomplished!

  • I signed up for the website during the weekend of June 15th. I didn’t download anything, for now. But, I really like it so far! I love the layout, and I can see myself using it as another helpful tool with my writing.
  • Here’s the link to my latest Writing Adventures post: Writing Adventures #2: Discovering Evernote

Host a “vacationing doll” from Ohio! — Accomplished!


Final Thoughts

  • I was able to put Accomplished next to six out of eight goals. Awesome! I’m so excited, and proud of myself.
  • The one goal that was Semi-Achieved: I made progress, and I’m happy with it!
  • The one goal that I did not accomplish: This wasn’t a huge priority. I like the idea of it, but it may not happen for 2018. No worries!

What about you? Did you have any goals for the month of June?

Come back tomorrow to see my July Goals!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #75: “The war on drugs failed. It’s time for a war on abuse.”

Honor Blackman

Image Credit: AZ Quotes

The headline grabbed me instantly. It spoke to me.

Here’s the link to the opinion that CNN published on their website on Friday, June 15, 2018:


Full disclosure: This was published under CNN’s Opinion section.

CNN also published this Editor’s Note at the top of the page: Natalie Schreyer is a reporter at the Fuller Project for International Reporting, a nonprofit news organization that covers issues impacting women and girls globally. She is working on “Abused in America,” a Fuller Project initiative to cover domestic violence in the United States. Jessica Klein is a journalist and co-author of the book “Abetting Batterers: What Police, Prosecutors, and Courts Aren’t Doing to Protect America’s Women.” The views expressed here are solely those of the authors.


I read this opinion. And then I re-read it. It stuck with me all weekend long. It’s still with me as I finish writing this post.

The comparisons that Schreyer and Klein make are staggering. After reading it several times, it makes complete sense to me.

Sure, I’m definitely biased here. I am a domestic violence survivor. I am an abuse survivor. Neither of these are ever okay. I’ve read several powerful memoirs and accounts of survivors (Tornado Warning), and stories of those who tragically lost their lives (If I Am Missing Or Dead: A Sister’s Story of Love, Murder, and Liberation) over the years. I don’t want to read new ones, if I’m being perfectly honest.

There must be harsher punishments for habitual offenders. The opening story for this opinion both broke my heart and made my blood boil – An alleged abuser has never been convicted of a crime, despite 160 encounters with police in 15 years. Quick math – That’s an average of 11 encounters per year. That’s too many.

One encounter is too many.

It took way too long for the current stalking laws to be enacted, and even now, those laws aren’t necessarily the same in every one of the 50 states (although it absolutely should be). The problem here is there’s a lack of consistency. The power is usually left up to the states, and that’s where many problems lie. Where you live is a huge factor, and it absolutely shouldn’t be that way!

But, what about all these non-violent offenders, in prison for decades on drug charges?

I could write a proverbial book. What the Nixon administration started in 1971 was a so-called “war” that will never be won. Presidents Reagan and H.W. Bush kept fueling the fire. I myself was in the D.A.R.E. program in fifth grade. I vowed to never smoke cigarettes after watching my grandmother, my dad’s mom. She lived with emphysema for more than 20 years. She also had COPD, and was on oxygen since I was a child.

Now, in 2018, our country has been facing the “opioid crisis” for several years. Like the authors argue, “addicts who need medical treatment more than criminal punishment,” is so true. And, sadly, not likely to happen. There is a lack of investment in mental health treatment and addiction treatment. Addicts need resources such as medical intervention, quality treatment facilities, quality therapy and/or counseling, and continued support for as long as necessary to keep them sober, stable, and functional.

Why? We have more people in prison for drug possession than mental health treatment facilities. These men and women (not all, mind you), unfortunately, re-offend and get sent back to prison because they can’t get a good, steady job after being released. Struggling to support themselves and their families, they turn to what they’ve known as their source of income. And they’re stuck in this vicious cycle that doesn’t seem to end.

When I think of an “addict,” I think of someone involved with drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, or crack. The harder, more dangerous drugs.

To think of how many people (many are people of color, too) are in jail or prison for non-violent marijuana offenses makes me incredibly angry. I’ve been supportive of the interest to legalize / de-criminalize marijuana. But, that’s another story altogether.

There needs to be far more accountability on the domestic violence and abuser side, however. The authors pointed to a fascinating report from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, which focused on High Point, North Carolina. When the focus was shifted toward cracking down on intimate partner violence, the number of intimate partner murders dropped from 17 (between 2004-2011) to just one (between 2012-2014).

Numbers are powerful. Seventeen murders dropped to one? Wow.

As I mentioned earlier, the current stalking laws took way too long to pass. Now, there really should be domestic violence courts in every state. The script should be flipped – Turn the thousands of drug courts (3,100 quoted in the opinion) into domestic violence courts. Problem solved? Maybe.

I’m not saying to get rid of drug courts altogether. What I’m saying is to shift the balance. Shift the balance of the number of courts, and maybe that will also shift the balance of power.

I certainly don’t have all the answers. I just feel strongly about the issues presented in this opinion. I hope more is done for all victims of domestic violence and abuse. No one deserves to go through the horror, shame, and terror. And this includes women, men, and children. There’s a lot of focus on women, but men and children are abused and violated every single day.


For more information, check out these resources. Many of these were also cited in the opinion.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #125: June Goals

BeautyBeyondBones 2

Image Credit: BeautyBeyondBones

Hey there, June! Nice to see you!

We’re halfway through 2018. Wow!


Here are my goals for the month of June:

  1. Attend P.E.O. State Convention.
  2. See Incredibles 2.
  3. See Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
  4. Work on a goals list with Al for the remainder of 2018.
  5. Update the Household Bills spreadsheet.
  6. Write at least 1,000 new words for my 2012 NaNoWriMo endeavor.
  7. Download Evernote.
  8. Host a “vacationing doll” from Ohio!

Here’s the breakdown:

Attend P.E.O. State Convention.

  • P.E.O. State Convention is in Blacksburg, Virginia this year!
  • The theme is “Catch The Waves To Better Futures,” so we’re having a beach party in the mountains!

See Incredibles 2.

  • Finally! Fourteen years in the making, we’re finally getting a sequel!!

See Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

  • We really liked Jurassic World when it came out in 2015, so we’ve been intrigued about the sequel for a while now. Bring it on!

Work on a goals list with Al for the remainder of 2018.

  • I’m determined to make this happen in June!

Update the Household Bills spreadsheet.

  • This has been been bugging me for at least three weeks. It’s absolutely happening!

Write at least 1,000 new words for my 2012 NaNoWriMo endeavor.

  • This is another thing that’s been bothering me. After all the work I did for Camp NaNoWriMo in April, I didn’t write a single new word during the month of May. Challenge accepted!

Download Evernote.

Host a “vacationing doll” from Ohio!

  • One of my American Girl doll Facebook groups is full of ideas. A woman in Ohio has nine kids, so vacations are expensive. Her 7-year-old daughter loves AG, and wanted to send one of her dolls, Emily, on “vacation.”
  • Al and I will have her for a full week, before I ship Emily off to the next destination!
  • I’m so excited to be participating!

Do you have any goals for the month of June?

If so, I’d love to hear about them!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #124: May Goals Recap

BeautyBeyondBones 8

Image Credit: BeautyBeyondBones

May was a month full of adventure!

Here’s the link to my May Goals post:

Ready?

Here we go!


  1. Drastically curb my spending habits. — Accomplished!
  2. See Solo: A Star Wars Story. — Accomplished!
  3. Finish prepping the Lady Lounge for the new standing desk. — Did not accomplish.
  4. Schedule the replacement of our ductwork and HVAC system. — Did not accomplish.
  5. Finish the book I’m currently reading, plus write the Book Review. — Accomplished!
  6. Work on a goals list with Al for the remainder of 2018. — Did not accomplish.
  7. Update the Household Bills spreadsheet. — Did not accomplish.
  8. Visit the farm! — Did not accomplish.
  9. Prepare for P.E.O. State Convention. — Accomplished!
  10. See the Virginia Symphony Orchestra perform the music to Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets live. — Accomplished!
  11. Publish my first “Down The TBR Hole” post. — Accomplished!
  12. Continue progress on my 2012 NaNoWriMo endeavor. — Did not accomplish.

Here’s the breakdown:

Drastically curb my spending habits. — Accomplished!

  • I’m so incredibly proud of myself. I actually did it!
  • The power of writing down a goal really works.
  • I saw the difference in my bank account and credit card statements.
  • I also FELT the difference, which I think is the most important thing. More money in the bank means more money to go toward the things we NEED.
  • My stated goals were: (a) not buy any more new clothes [both for Laura Beth, and Laura Beth’s American Girl dolls], and, (b) not eat out as much for my lunches.
  • I felt successful with both goals, and I’m very happy.

See Solo: A Star Wars Story. — Accomplished!

  • We saw Solo on Thursday, May 24th.
  • Is is the best Star Wars movie ever? No. Absolutely not.
  • However, it is fun, entertaining, action-packed, and a good story. The cast is AMAZING!
  • Give this movie some love and go see it.

Finish prepping the Lady Lounge for the new standing desk. — Did not accomplish.

  • We had other priorities this month. The standing desk is lower on the list!

Schedule the replacement of our ductwork and HVAC system. — Did not accomplish.

  • We had to get our electrical panel upgraded first, and we’re just waiting for the city inspector to sign off on the work.

Finish the book I’m currently reading, plus write the Book Review. — Accomplished!

Work on a goals list with Al for the remainder of 2018. — Did not accomplish.

  • This just didn’t happen. Looking forward to doing this in June.

Update the Household Bills spreadsheet. — Did not accomplish.

  • See above comment. I’m determined to do this by the end of June!

Visit the farm! — Did not accomplish.

Prepare for P.E.O. State Convention. — Accomplished!

  • It’s almost time! I’m so excited to be a delegate with Darcy this year!

See the Virginia Symphony Orchestra perform the music to Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets live. — Accomplished!

  • Al and I went to Chrysler Hall on Friday, May 4th.
  • It was such an awesome concert!
  • Plus, we got to eat California Pizza Kitchen AND cotton candy during the movie!

Publish my first “Down The TBR Hole” post. — Accomplished!

Continue progress on my 2012 NaNoWriMo endeavor. — Did not accomplish.

  • I had all the intentions of working on it during my trip to Florida, but it just didn’t happen.
  • However, with my self-imposed deadline of December 31, 2018 on the fast-track, I best be cracking for the rest of the year!

Final Thoughts

  • I was able to put Accomplished next to six out of 12 goals! I’ll take it!
  • The six goals that I did not accomplish: I forgot what happens when you take a week off of work and travel extensively for that week! On to June!

What about you? Did you have any goals for the month of May?

Come back tomorrow to see my June Goals!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #26: North Korea

North Korea Quote

Image Credit: Wilson Center

Unless you’ve been living under the rock, it feels like North Korea has been in the news every single day.

I wanted to use this post to walk through several things: A brief history, news articles and documentaries, China’s concerns. and what the media is NOT reporting.


North Korea, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is the northern part of the Korean Peninsula.

Korea was annexed by Imperial Japan in 1910. At the end of World War II, Korea was divided into two zones. The north was occupied by the Soviet Union, and the south was occupied by the United States. Attempts at reunification failed. In 1948, separate governments were formed – The socialist Democratic People’s Reublic of Korea to the north, and the capitalist Republic of Korea to the south. An invasion by the north led to the Korean War, from 1950-1953. The Korean Armistice Agreement brought a ceasefire, but no peace treaty.

The North Korean army is the fourth largest in the world. With 1.21 million active duty personnel, it is only behind China, the United States, and India. Its population is estimated, in 2016 numbers, to be over 25 million people. The country shares land borders with China and Russia.

The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a strip of land, 160 miles long and about 2.5 miles wide. It separates the two countries. It was established in 1953 by an agreement between North Korea, China, and the United Nations.

The country functions as a highly centralized, one-party state. They are governed by the Ten Principles for the Establishment of a Monolithic Ideological System. The Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) dominates all North Korean politics, and has an estimated three million members.

Kim Jong-un is the current Supreme Leader, or Suryeong, of Korea. He is part of the Kim dynasty, which has ruled North Korea since 1948.


Aside from general media coverage, there have been several interesting documentaries made about North Korea.

Al and I watched The Propaganda Game several years ago. I think we watched it through Netflix. It was incredibly compelling, eye-opening, and frustrating. I was so angry after we watched it.

In addition, multiple movies have featured North Korea, including The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Die Another Day (2002), Stealth (2005), Salt (2010), Red Dawn (2012), The Interview (2014), and Northern Limit Line (2015).


Over the years, concerns have arisen regarding the Kim dynasty, their treatment of their citizens, and nuclear weapons.

More recently, although North Korea has announced their intent to fully denuclearize, there are significant concerns from the Chinese government. North Korea has been blowing up and destroying some of their nuclear weapon facilities, and China has been very concerned about the radiation dust, and other environmental hazards. But, of course, the media here in the United States isn’t talking about that. But, they should be.

There’s a lot about China and North Korea that hasn’t been reported in the United States. It’s infuriating, really. I learned about investigative journalism early on in my education at Longwood. But, the current reporting has a certain strategy and angle. Not that any of that is an excuse. It’s crappy reporting, crappy journalism. I also believe there is a culture of fear now. Especially since Donald Trump is the President of the United States.


For more information, check out the links below. As always, I try to gather my news sources from a variety of United States and international news organizations.

 


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂