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Mental health advocates want more access to care and less stigma in Northern Nevada

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but advocates would like to see solutions all year round.

Kim Palchikoff is a freelance journalist covering mental health, a licensed clinical social work intern, and the host of the No Stigma Nevada podcast.

Palchikoff, who has bipolar disorder, interviews mental health professionals, current and former lawmakers, and everyday people. She strives to give Nevadans a space to share their personal stories and provide a place where people can get information.

“There’s a lot of the kind of repetition of people saying, ‘Nevada is 51st in the nation. Nevada’s mental health sucks,’ well, people want to learn about it,” Palchikoff said. “I also have found that the people I've interviewed also really want to share their expertise, but I’m here really also to collect people’s stories so that people don’t feel so alone.”

Mental health advocate Kim Palchikoff and Reno-based psychiatrist Dr. Barry Cole at KUNR Public Radio studio in Reno, Nev., on May 10, 2024.
Mental health advocate Kim Palchikoff and Reno-based psychiatrist Dr. Barry Cole at KUNR Public Radio studio in Reno, Nev., on May 10, 2024.

Palchikoff said some of the largest barriers to accessing mental health care in northern Nevada are the lack of culturally diverse providers and stigma.

Dr. Barry Cole, the president-elect of the Nevada Psychiatric Association, has seen stigma firsthand. He’s been a guest on the show, and the association has helped fund it.

“I want to destigmatize that psychiatrists are not scary people. We’re just average people who have a certain skill set, but there’s no stigma seeing me,” Cole said. “I’ve practiced in small towns where literally, I had to have a back door. So patients could come in the front door, but you didn’t want them going back out through the same door because someone might see them.”

Cole is excited to see that there are more people completing psychiatrist residencies in Reno and the future of the closed West Hills Behavioral Health Hospital. Washoe County Commissioners voted to buy it but will need to renovate the building before opening.

Palchikoff wants the new suicide prevention hotline 988 to be more visible, especially at the University of Nevada, Reno.

“I would like to see that 988 number plastered everywhere,” Palchikoff said. “Every dorm, every fraternity, every sorority, on the football field.”

Palchikoff is looking forward to sharing upcoming episodes of her podcast, including a peer support specialist who is a college student, and a veteran with PTSD.

If you’d like to share your story for Palchikoff’s podcast, message her on Instagram @nostigmanevada

Lucia Starbuck is an award-winning political journalist and the host of KUNR’s monthly show Purple Politics Nevada. She is passionate about reporting during election season, attending community events, and talking to people about the issues that matter most to them.
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