Mental Health Awareness Month: Local student shares story to help fight stigma

Alex McKnight

PADUCAH — More than 45 million adults in the United States are living with mental illness, and nearly 1 in 5 people ages from 13 to 18 experience a severe mental disorder at some point in life.

Those statistics are from the National Institute of Mental Health.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

Ever since she was a young girl, Alix McKnight said she’s been dealing with severe anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

“Anxiety is just a mean person in your head that doesn’t even seem like your own self,” McKnight said. She let it control her. “Going to school was always a huge trigger for me,” McKnight said.

And she let that voice in her head make her believe she wasn’t good enough. “Anxiety and depression have both done that to me where I don’t feel like I can move forward, and I just feel stuck,” McKnight said.

McKnight’s OCD can make her feel stuck as well.

“I could go and check a stovetop and see if it’s turned off 20 times and still not quite feel right,” McKnight said. “It’s a disorder. It interrupts my life.”

Now, at 25, she has completed her first semester at West Kentucky Community and Technical College.

“Part of the thing that made me want to go to school and believe that I could was finding out what I want to do,” McKnight said.

She’s using her experiences to help others going through similar issues as a peer mentor.

“School can sometimes feel chaotic and scary and massive, whereas talking with someone about it helps,” McKnight said.

WKCTC students who want to speak with a therapist can find counseling services in the Anderson building through Four Rivers Behavioral Health.

Janna Wilson is McKnight’s therapist. “We all go through bouts of mental illness,” Wilson said. She’s WKCTC’s clinician, and she’s trying to reduce the stigma for students so they will seek help when they need it.

“Not only am I a clinical counselor, but we help them navigate through academic processes,” Wilson said.

McKnight said she counting down the days until she starts as a peer mentor. “I’m able to be a supportive person while also supporting myself,” she said.

Four Rivers Behavioral Health serves nine counties in western Kentucky. They’re services are free to students at all public schools and colleges in which they are located, including WKCTC.

For more information about counseling services at WKCTC, click here. For details on how to set up an appointment, click here.

To find a therapist in your area, click here.