News Article Details

Hospital raises awareness for mental health disorders

Times West Virginian - 5/28/2018

May 28--CLARKSBURG -- One-in-five people in America live with a mental health condition, according to the Highland-Clarksburg Hospital.

Many of these individuals go through life with conditions such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder, undiagnosed and unrecognized because of their largely invisible symptoms.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the Highland-Clarksburg Hospital has taken initiatives to get these individuals to recognize their symptoms, and get them the help they need, instead of going unnoticed.

"It's really just as important as our physical health, and we tend to not always put as much of an emphasis on it as our physical health," Brianna Hardman, a therapist at Highland-Clarksburg Hospital, said. "A lot of people suffer in silence because of shame and because of stigma and our lack of understanding as a society that mental health challenges can just be a part of life."

Several of the therapists at Highland-Clarksburg Hospital have been writing about topics pertaining to mental health throughout the month. Hardman tackled the stigma that comes with having mental issues, talking about how the negative portrayal of symptoms can leave people suffering in silence.

"I work with a lot of teenagers, and there's definitely that stigma associated for them, whether it's letting their parents or caregivers know that they are feeling depressed or that they have had thoughts of suicide," Hardman said. "They fear that other people at school will find out about it or talk about it and start bullying them. There's just a lot of stigma that's associated with it."

According to Hardman, the types of disorders that are contained under the umbrella of mental health issues range from mild depression to schizophrenia. When it comes to making a diagnosis, a condition must have an affect on an individual's daily life.

"The main line is that it is impacting your daily life and your day-to-day functioning," she said. "So it's getting to the point where some areas of your life are being impacted, whether it's your relationship with family, romantic relationships, school performance, work performance, ability to sleep, ability to eat."

Hardman mainly works in therapy for kids and teens at the hospital, and said these individuals in that age range don't usually understand why they feel a certain way, much less what they can do about it.

"Sometimes the teens that I work with will go an extensive period of time trying to handle this on their own without reaching out," Hardman said. "They kind of just hold things in and it builds up to a point where they just don't know what to do and something tends to happen; a crisis tends to happen."

Avoiding a crisis is one of the talking points of Mental Health Awareness Month, as getting treatment for an afflicted person beforehand is one of the goals.

"My hope is that if we can start working on breaking that stigma that more people will be willing to reach out for support," Hardman said.

Other topics covered by other therapists at the Highland-Clarksburg Hospital during the month include knowing the warning signs of a mental health disorder, as well as how an individual's diet affects mental health.

Jamie B., a forensic therapist with Highland-Clarksburg Hospital, listed "emptiness, problems with concentration, significant fluctuation in mood and motivation levels, irritability, agitation, sleeping way more or way less than usual, indecisiveness, and/or impulsive decision-making," as potential signals of a condition like depression, in her column for the month. Hardman said these actions can potentially lead to a diagnosis, which can then lead to treatment for an individual, which is her next talking point.

Alongside raising awareness for what a mental health disorder can do to an individual, Hardman also wanted to talk about the treatments available to help them. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, a patient can be checked into therapy for three to seven days a week, or even receive medication which curbs the effects of a disorder.

"Anybody out there who is having some struggle with mental health, what I would recommend is trying therapy," Hardman said. "Outpatient therapy is really what is going to be that first step. A therapist may refer somebody to medication management, or they might see a psychiatrist on a monthly basis."

Hardman said that regular checkups with a psychiatrist are required when any type of medication is involved with a patient, and said a patient will leave an appointment with another already scheduled if diagnosed with a mental health condition.

Hardman emphasized that individuals suffering daily with sadness to stress reach out to a doctor or even a family member or friend to talk about these feelings, no matter what month it is.

"Obviously there are different severities and different degrees and people have different levels of functioning, but for the most part with some support, people can make great strides," Hardman said.

Email Eddie Trizzino at etrizzino@timeswv.com and follow him on Twitter at @eddietimeswv.

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(c)2018 the Times West Virginian (Fairmont, W. Va.)

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