Mental Health and Wellness Series event tackles issues of homelessness and mental illness

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Samuel Voyles

Melissa Fry, assistant professor of sociology and director of the Applied Research and Education Center at IU Southeast, tells a story about one of her clients who lost everything as Annell Lough, outreach advisor for the Center for Women and Families, and another attendee listen.

Samuel Voyles, Contributing Writer

Homelessness and mental health are issues that can affect communities. March’s Mental Health and Wellness Series event focused on those issues.

The event, called “Disenfranchisement in the U.S.,” took place on Wednesday, March 9 in University Center North, room 127. The event consisted of a discussion led by community experts about mental health in the homeless.

Annell Lough, outreach advisor for the Center for Women and Families, began the discussion by talking about the services the center provides.

“We are the local domestic violence program and rape crisis program, so we have a lot of different services,” Lough said. “But one of the biggest services we provide is emergency shelter.”

Annell Lough, outreach advisor for the Center for Women and Families, wraps up her discussion by taking questions as Melissa Fry, assistant professor of sociology and director of the Applied Research and Education Center at IU Southeast, and another attendee listen to her answers.

Annell Lough, outreach advisor for the Center for Women and Families, wraps up her discussion by taking questions as Melissa Fry, assistant professor of sociology and director of the Applied Research and Education Center at IU Southeast, and another attendee listen to her answers.

Lough also said homelessness and poverty are the biggest problems Jeffersonville faces.

“We do see a lack of resources,” Lough said. “We only have one homeless shelter in this area, and that’s not counting Louisville.”

Next, Barry Winstead, clinical director of Kilgore Samaritan Counseling Center in Louisville, talked about how therapy is sometimes misinterpreted.

“If you give in to some of these barriers or the stigma, what happens is folks don’t get the help that is available to them,” Winstead said.

Winstead asked the audience members what they thought some of the barriers of therapy were. Some of the responses were: cost, transportation, availability and the stigma attached to therapy.

Barry Winstead, clinical director of the Kilgore Samaritan Counseling Center in Louisville, lays out facts about how therapy works.

Barry Winstead, clinical director of the Kilgore Samaritan Counseling Center in Louisville, lays out facts about how therapy works.

“All of these were true,” Winstead said. “But a lot of folks just don’t know that they could be better off.”

The last speaker of the night was Melissa Fry, assistant professor of sociology and director of the Applied Research and Education Center at IU Southeast. She told a story about how she had a client in Arizona who had lost everything and was homeless.

“This was a guy who was the rising star in fine arts,” Fry said. “He was a brilliant artist, but that storyline, that path from perfectly healthy functional life to being homeless on the street with serious mental illness is a very common story.”

Fry also said the 2015 Assessment of Needs and Priorities in Clark and Floyd Counties identified homelessness and mental illness as vital issues.

Brooke Dewhirst, psychology senior, said she was opened up to some of the things going on in the community.

Upon entering University Center North, room 127, attendees could pick up objects on two tables. The objects included various brochures which covered topics like HIV and AIDS, IUS Personal Counseling Services and mental health issues.

Upon entering University Center North, room 127, attendees could pick up objects on two tables. The objects included various brochures which covered topics like HIV and AIDS, IUS Personal Counseling Services and mental health issues.

“I think tonight’s topics opened my eyes more to some of the issues around the community that we don’t necessarily think about on a daily basis,” Dewhirst said.

Dewhirst said several of the topics reminded her of her time in the military.

“I was with the military for 16 years and I did social work, so a lot of the things that they talked about I referred people to these resources,” Dewhirst said. “It’s interesting to hear from their perspective because they would be the resources that I would refer my families to, so it’s interesting to hear that perspective.”

The last Mental Health and Wellness Series event for the 2015-16 academic year will be “The Challenges and Rewards of Long-Term Caregiving.” It will take place on Tuesday, April 5 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in University Center North, room 127. For more information, contact Michael Day, personal counselor at IU Southeast, at micaday@ius.edu.