PITTSBURG — For years, Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce has recognized women of distinction.

Crawford County Mental Health Director of Adult Services Lynette Downing is one of the Women of Distinction 2018 honorees.

She was honored for her service at CCMH, assisting in the creation of Brighter Days, which focuses on mental health awareness and its impact on the county.

Downing has devoted time as a steering committee member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Southeast Kansas Chapter and worked with veterans who suffer from mental illness. She is also a member of the Pittsburg Noon Rotary club.

Downing was raised in Pittsburg and went to Pittsburg schools, including Pittsburg State University where she earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology.

Growing up around people who worked in mental health, Downing was “no stranger to it,” she said.

She said one her mother’s friends, who was a psychologist, was also very influential.

“I sort of grew up around it, and so I naturally gravitated toward it,” Downing said.

Her father, who was in the automobile business, would have liked to see her have her own business or follow in his footstep, Downing said, but she felt like it wasn’t the best fit for her.

“I did love it, but I don’t think I’m much of a mechanical person,” she said.   

After the completion of her degree at PSU she moved to Kansas City and worked at Lansing Correctional Facility — the people she worked with still keep in touch with her.  

It was her father who helped bring her back to Pittsburg after running into the director of CCMH while having a meal at the Mall Deli. An opening was available.

“He helped load stuff,” Downing said. “Dad was in the parking lot with a U-Haul at seven in the morning to bring me home … dad wanted me back here.”

Taking care of people and building relationships are what Downing loves about being at CCHM, she said.

She gave credit for the success of the organization to the staff there, which Downing said is a challenging field to be in.

“Our staff is so incredible they work so hard,” she said.

Some of the issues they face are funding which inhibits them from being able to help patients when they need it the most, Downing said.

As a steering committee member of NAMI, Downing received the Provider of the Year Award, which she said has almost as much meaning as the degrees hanging on her wall.

“I ugly cried when they gave it to me … it is probably most meaningful thing I ever received,” she said. “It came from a group of consumers and peers who nominate you.”

NAMI is about advocacy and they reach out to families and individuals, which is important to her Downing said.

Along with being involved with NAMI and working at CCHM, Downing is also an active member in the Pittsburg Noon Rotary.

Downing said she really gets into her volunteer work, especially when it comes to places like the Lord’s Diner.

“I love to volunteer at some of these places because, certainly, some of my clients benefit from that and I would like them to see me outside of my office,” she said.  
When it comes to mental health, Downing said people should feel free and comfortable to talk about it, just like when they talk about physical illness.

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.