As Miss Kiowa, Ascension Via Christi PCT champions mental health | Ascension

As Miss Kiowa, Ascension Via Christi PCT champions mental health

For Payton Keller, having a platform for raising mental health awareness means more to her than the crown awarded to the winner of the pageants in which she competes.

“I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety at 16 years old,” says the 23-year-old Cheney native who in November was chosen as Miss Kiowa County. “I was hospitalized because of it and I understand how hard it is on middle and high school-age kids living in a place where suicide and mental health are not talked about openly.”

For the past year and a half, Keller has served as a patient care technician on 4SE at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis.

“I try to be a listening ear for the patients I interact with,” says Keller, who began her healthcare career in assisted living. “I like my unit because it’s nice to constantly see new patients or float to other units and touch their lives.”

Keller, who previously has held the titles of Miss Topeka and Miss Cowley County, will compete for Miss Kansas in June.

“Because of the platform these pageants gave me, I took on the responsibility of spreading awareness in whatever ways I can,” says Keller. “I’ve been blessed to speak at schools, partner with the National Alliance on Mental Illness and speak at remembrance and awareness walks.”

This past year, Keller successfully petitioned the governor’s office to proclaim May 7 as “Be Unsilent Day,” a day in which Kansans are encouraged to speak up and share their mental health stories. She also helped raise $45,000 to give access to care for Kansans who can’t afford mental health services.

She is currently completing her prerequisites for nursing school at Butler Community College with the hopes of one day owning and operating a nursing home.

“I like being there for people and being someone that is relied upon,” says Keller, who works the night shift at the hospital. “Work is a safe place for me because I feel needed and nothing in the outside world matters as much to me when I’m there.”

Keller has developed a “to-do list” to help maintain her mental health and encourages others to do the same.

“Working the night shift, I make it a priority to see the sun by staying up a little later and getting fresh air,” she says. “I also vent to my support system, listen to music and have been trying to read more often.”

Learn more about mental health services available at Ascension Via Christi: