Pair of Jessamine County women hope to bring comfort with support group
Published 12:35 pm Wednesday, July 19, 2023
Two women, born and raised in Jessamine County, have made mental health and community a priority in their lives, and they’re spreading this compassion for themselves and each other to all women through their new group, Nicholasville Women United.
Right now, the group is a support group. Its members meet every second and fourth Wednesday of the month at Shepherd’s House, which is located at 104 E. Main Street in Nicholasville.
Co-founder Nicole Stokley said that one day, she would like this group to become an official nonprofit organization. Their goal, Stokley said, is to help people. Although she and co-founder Carlisa Edwards are not licensed therapists, she said the group is “just a safe place, judgment-free that you can come in and say whatever you want to say. If you don’t want to say anything, we don’t make people talk.” Stokley said. “We tell people if you want to sit there and cry, you sit there and cry. That’s what we’re there for,”
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This group covers almost everything concerning mental health struggles, including substance abuse, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, self-esteem, body dysmorphia and trauma.
“I’ve always believed that everybody has gone through something; some people handle it better than others,” Stokley said. “Mental health has always been out there, but people don’t want to discuss it. COVID brought it more to light because many people struggled with being locked in their houses for two years. But it’s still, and especially with women, I feel like it’s so hard to talk about it. We were raised not to talk about it; keep it inside. Well, learning personally, it doesn’t go well because eventually, it will all come out. And not in the best way.”
Although the two can’t offer professional help, they offer a sense of communal love by listening to and supporting others in the group. Stokley even finds professional coping skill print-outs online to bring to class.
Stokley said the idea for this group started after Stokley and Edwards met each other amid their own rock bottoms.
“We were trying to get help and realized that the best help we got was talking to other people because sometimes we couldn’t express in words what we were going through,” she said.
There were also three suicides of students at East Jessamine High School this year. These deaths only pushed Stokley even more.
Stokley visited a fellow West Jessamine High School alum and former classmate, Nicholasville Mayor Alex Carter. She asked him if he could help her start this group.
After last November’s election, Carter connected Stokley and Edwards to Harm Reduction Director Sydney Bisschop with the Jessamine County Health Department and Kate Holway with Shepherd’s House so that the women could find a place to meet and start planning to attend community events.
“This is very near and dear to my heart and Carlisa’s from personal experience,” Stokley said, “We have a good support system here in town, and we’re just trying to help build that up, especially because we’re fairly new.”
Stokley said it’s hard for someone to understand something they haven’t gone through truly – this is why this group focuses on women’s struggles, she said. With many group members being mothers or single mothers or just being a woman in general, they’ve had similar experiences. Stokley said she believes men also need a group of their own but that a man should lead it.
Since their first meeting in March, these women have been working hard to provide support in and outside regular meeting times. The meetings always have water and freshly baked goods by Carlisa available so that everyone can take a moment to enjoy a snack and relax during the meeting. If there are people in the group who can afford a therapist and would like one, Stokley and Edwards, help them find a therapist. If there are women in the group who can’t afford groceries, the ladies take them to the nearest grocery store to make it to the next paycheck. Stokley is even considering signing up for a defense class for women interested.
Both Stokley and Edwards make themselves available to ladies in their Nicholasville Women’s United Facebook group in case they need an inspirational nudge or a listening ear. Stokley said this is especially important because reaching out is so difficult when humans are made to think they should be strong enough to make it on their own.
“I still contact people through messenger on Facebook, check-in on them, especially when I know they’ve been to a meeting and they’re having a rough time, reaching out between meetings and asking how they are, asking if they need anything and even if there’s not a meeting, contact me. I’m always more than willing to talk, I could do it after work hours, and Carlisa can do it during the day,” Stokley said.
There are only a few rules in the group; don’t be disrespectful to others in the group, and everything discussed must stay in the group to ensure trust and privacy. “But legally and ethically, if you do mention self-harm, hurting yourself or someone else, we will have to call the police. We’d bring the person out back, and Carlisa could continue with the group to ensure they got the help.” Stokley said. “I would never forgive myself if we didn’t take that seriously, especially in today’s society, and something happens because that’s what we’re trying to prevent.” Because she works in the medical field, Stokley knows how to deal with these high-stress situations, and she said she understands why someone may feel like they were being attacked in this situation. She knows how to stay calm and keep the situation private.
The Nicholasville Women United Facebook page can be found at www.facebook.com/groups/882231569779869. All interested in joining must first be approved by Stokley and Edwards.
“We are a safe place. We do not judge cause there’s not a person in this world that does not make mistakes that wishes they could change certain things, maybe you have been an addict of some sort, but you know what? You’re trying to get better. We’re not here to throw your past in your face, we’re here to help you move on and if you need to vent about how hard that is because it is hard, it is a daily struggle. We’re here for that,” Stokley said.
If you would like to donate to the group, allowing them to assist group members with financial struggles, check out its GoFundMe at https://www.gofundme.com/f/community-support-group?utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&utm_medium=email&utm_source=customer