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Hoosier using her story to help those battling mental health struggles as physician assistant

At the Indiana Center for Recovery in Bloomington, Katherine Hulsey knows firsthand how hard addiction and mental health struggles can be.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and nearly one in five adults live with a mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Now, one Hoosier is striving to help those overcoming their mental health struggles and addiction.

"Nobody should be ashamed to be on medication or go to therapy for any kind of mental health issue or substance abuse as well," said physician assistant Katherine Hulsey.

At the Indiana Center for Recovery in Bloomington, Hulsey knows firsthand how hard addiction and mental health struggles can be.

"Depression and anxiety is something that I've struggled with a lot, and it's something I can empathize with a lot," Hulsey said.

RELATED: Expert: Stigma surrounding mental health treatment is easing, but there are new challenges

The 27-year-old Hoosier struggled with an eating disorder while in her teens, relapsing multiple times while in college. 

Now, she's using her story and degree as a physician assistant to help those fighting their own battles.

"It's satisfying when people say, 'You know, I'm ready to go out in the real world, cravings are low and I feel like I can handle it,'" Hulsey said. 

However, the need for more mental health resources in Indiana is high. Right now, 83 of the state's 92 counties have a shortage of mental health professionals, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

"There is a severe shortage in mental health workers across the country, period," said Lisa Gables, CEO of the American Academy of Physician Associates.

RELATED: Report ranks Indiana 29th for overall child well-being for 3rd straight year

The AAPA is a national professional society of physician assistants representing more than 150,000 PAs across the county, who are striving to meet the needs of those struggling with mental health, one patient at a time.

"Oftentimes, particularly in primary care, PAs are the first person that a patient will see," Gables said. "So, we're training as many people as possible, continuing our training to make sure that they understand they can get help."

The AAPA will be hosting its first in-person conference since 2019 at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis May 21-25. The conference will feature presentations from Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, who will share her experience with her mental health.

For more information or to register for the conference, visit this link.

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