Going Through Hell? Keep on Going: Finding Resilience and Hope In Appalachia


In this episode, we’ll hear stories of loss, grief, and resilience. A lesbian woman who was abused by her husband and left for dead when she came out of the closet talks about her journey to become a boxing champion.

 And we’ll hear an audio diary of a boy whose father was hiding from the FBI for 15 years – until one day, the past caught up with them.

This show is dedicated to the Appalachian survivors who have lived to tell their stories of overcoming some challenging realities. We’re talking about why mental health is important, especially when overcoming trauma. West Virginia has the third highest percentage of people diagnosed with a mental illness in America and the second highest percentage of people who have contemplated suicide according to Mental Health America, a national nonprofit organization that promotes mental health.

People who work in the mental health field say there’s often a stigma about mental illness. Some people  associate mental illness with weakness and often don’t hold mental health as much of a priority as our physical health.


  • W.Va. Program Helps Children Deal With Trauma. In 2013, the West Virginia Center for Children’s Justice launched a program called Handle With Care. The collaborative  program is meant to help children who’ve experienced abuse, neglect or other types of trauma succeed in school. The program that started on the West Side of Charleston is now expanding across the state and in other communities across the nation.
  • Loss of Hope Can Complicate Recovery, says Dr. Carol Smith, Associate Professor and Co-Coordinator of the Violence, Loss and Trauma Certificate Program at Marshall University. She’s published 10 articles, presented nationally and internationally on trauma, and works with multiple community initiatives to reduce childhood trauma in West Virginia. Jessica Lilly talks with Smith about why shaking off a wound to your heart is not easy to do. Smith is a member of the American Counseling Association. She’s working on several programs meant to help children in the West Virginia, including Handle With Care.

    Credit Kara Lofton/ WVPB
    Students (and program coordinator Elizabeth Brunello) at Sherman High School in Boone pose for photo during an after-school leadership program. Although Sherman does not have a school therapist, the students have a good relationship with their school counselor and say they feel comfortable going to her for help.

  • Providing Mental Health Services to students. While every school in West Virginia has guidance counselors, a new initiative gives students access to mental health therapists. Appalachian Health reporter Kara Lofton visited one of the schools to meet up with some of the students.

  • Boxing Champion’s Story of Survival. When a person who has been abused leaves their abuser they are 70 times more likely to be killed in the following weeks than if they just stay with the abuser. It’s something that Christy Salters is all too familiar with. You might recognize that name: Christy’s a pioneer in women’s boxing. She’s the six-time World Boxing Council Champion. But she  found herself in the fight of her life, outside the ring. 

  • Radio Diaries: Frankie. “I was coming home from school. I got off the school bus. My Dad and Mom were in the kitchen fixing a waffle iron. And about 10 minutes after I got off the bus, all these cops pulled in our yard. And my Dad looked out the window and he looked at our family in the kitchen. And he said, he loves us and he’ll never forget us.” This story originally aired on NPR’s All Things Considered in 1997.

  • Radio diaries producer Joe Richman revisited Frankie 16 years later:

    If you need help, the Crisis Textline offers 24/7 communication though texts. The site says you can text anything at anytime, just … Text “GO” to 741-741. You can also find a list of other hotlines to call on their website.

  • Music in this episode of Inside Appalachia was provided by Rodney Atkins, Andy Agnew Jr., Ben Townsend, Jake Schepps, and Our What’s in a Name theme music is by Marteka and William with “Johnson Ridge Special” from their Album Songs of a Tradition. Inside Appalachia is produced by Jessica Lilly and Roxy Todd. Catherine Winter edited the show. Audio mixing is by Zander Aloi.