Coping with the UnseenMay 10, 2012
Mental Health Awareness Month Brings Illness to Light
White County Medical Center’s Compass and Clearview staff members are constantly aware of the seriousness of the mental health illnesses that plague society. However, many illnesses such as depression, dementia and psychosis are largely misunderstood and often portrayed in a negative light. That is why the organization Mental Health America established May as Mental Health Awareness Month.
“On occasion, people need a mental and physical ‘time out’ to assess their current situation,” said Director of Compass and Clearview Larry Bryant. “They need the support and validation of others in similar circumstances; plus, they need direction from our treatment team to help them get back on track. Here, they get the encouragement and motivation they need to regroup and move forward with their lives.”
Compass is available for treatment of people ages 18 to 64, and Clearview is for adults age 65 and older and both units are located on WCMC’s South Campus at 1200 Main Street. The mental health programs offer a combination of treatment, rehabilitation and care, as well as education for family members. Therapy is tailored to each patient’s emotional needs including one-on-one and group counseling, family sessions and activities.
Compass includes daily patient-driven community meetings where each patient is given the opportunity to give feedback about their treatment to their individual healthcare team.
“Their comments are written down with the expectation that there will be an action plan set,” Bryant explained. “We’ve learned that by giving patients an outlet on a frequent basis, it allows them to take ownership of their own treatment, and it lets them know we want to care for them in the best way possible. Through the community meetings, we can address any issues the patient may have; we want to prevent them from distractions as much as possible in order to help them recover.”
Clearview Medical Director Jeffery Rains, M.D., said his family has experienced dementia, and he understands the desire families have to care for loved ones with mental health issues. As part of the program at Clearview, Dr. Rains adapts treatments plans for each patient based on their own living environment. He also customizes medication plans for each patient.
“I want to treat my patients as if they were my own family,” he said. “My goal is to maximize each patient’s quality of life.”
As a youth, Compass Medical Director Herman R. Clements II, M.D., observed the experiences of a close family member who had a mental illness and the difficulty they experienced in receiving effective treatment. Those insights motivated Dr. Clements to become a psychiatrist; he is board certified in child, adolescent and adult psychiatry.
The Compass and Clearview staffs take pride in spending individual time with patients in order to understand their needs. For example, Mental Health Technicians monitor their patients around the clock. Patients have an assigned nurse each shift that is able to educate them about their medications. Social workers provide therapy in a group setting, while individual and family counseling is done as well.
Family meetings are used as an opportunity to educate the family on their loved one’s condition and help reinforce to the family members the importance of their role in supporting the patient’s follow-up aftercare plan. Also, family members of Compass and Clearview patients are invited to call anytime to request updates on the patient’s status, and both programs have open visitation hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. so that family members have more time to visit their loved ones at their convenience.
“We want to give the families the assurance that we are taking good care of their loved one,” Larry Bryant, Director of Compass and Clearview, said.
Signs and Suggestions
“Everyone struggles, and we all have problems,” said Behavioral Health Community Outreach Coordinator Eric Yarbrough, RN. “There is no shame in that. Nobody wants to come to the hospital for a few days, but if those few days can positively impact the rest of their life, then, it’s well worth it.”
Extreme changes in routine may be a sign of depression, which is common among those who have suffered a serious physical complication, such as heart or lung disease, cancer or orthopedic pain or injuries.
While people from young adults to the elderly experience depression, those in their 70s, 80s and 90s are often less likely to be aware of their own increase in tiredness, loss of appetite and mood swings as warning signs of depression. According to Yarbrough, they often will not recognize those symptoms due to other physical concerns or are unwilling to acknowledge the symptoms.
“People in this age group were taught to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and not to cry when things went wrong,” he said. “Then, they feel like they have to be stoic and trudge on through the bad times, and it is difficult for them to talk about their own emotional issues.”
Research has shown that depression is actually linked to the brain’s chemistry and genetics, not personal weakness, in people of all ages. To combat the feelings of sadness, forgetfulness and trouble sleeping, Yarbrough recommends getting out of the house to connect with other people.
“Even though it may sound easy to most of us, that is actually a hard thing to do,” he said. “People who are depressed feel unmotivated and want to be isolated, which can turn into a vicious cycle if it is done repeatedly. The more people isolate themselves, the worse they will feel. What we find is that once people have gotten out once or twice, they feel much better.”
“Maintain your normal routine as much as possible,” Yarbrough suggested. “Keep your regular sleeping patterns, eat regular meals, exercise, take prescribed medications and go to your appointments. Exercise causes a lot of good-feeling hormones to be released, which can lessen the feelings of depression.”
In addition to getting out and about, another way to defy the seasonal blues is to treat yourself to something you enjoy, especially if it’s something you haven’t done in a while – consider it a gift to yourself. However, be sure to avoid alcohol because it acts as a depressant.
Yarbrough suggested seeking medical attention for yourself or a loved one if you notice the following symptoms that last longer than two weeks: feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and guilt; persistent sadness or anxiety; unexplained crying; withdrawal from activities and relationships that were pleasurable before; memory loss or confusion; changes in eating or sleeping habits; decreased energy; and thoughts of suicide. He added that Compass or Clearview may be an appropriate solution.
For more information, please call Compass for ages 18 to 64 at (501) 278-3370 or Clearview for ages 65 and older at (501) 278-3365.
ABOUT WHITE COUNTY MEDICAL CENTER
As the leading healthcare provider in a six-county area, White County Medical Center associates strive to create a healthy community by providing quality patient care and participating in community health events. White County Medical Center is the largest employer in Searcy with more than 1,500 associates. The facility has a combined total of 438 licensed beds and a medical staff of 150 physicians that specialize in various areas of healthcare.