/Think you know what mental illness looks like Think again

Think you know what mental illness looks like Think again

A single man who has an engineering degree but can’t find work because of his history of paranoid schizophrenia. Or the autistic child who can’t speak to anyone, even a doctor, despite reading fervently. Sometimes, signs and symptoms of mental illness can be easily identified by doctors. Other times, they are only known by those who are affected. It’s not easy to tell if someone is mentally ill by looking at them. Mental health can be fragile and it is not easy to determine. Even the most stable people can experience depression due to poor relationships or job situations. How do you get help? Angela Ladner (executive director of the Mississippi Psychiatric Association) said that family doctors often prescribe medication to manage mental health problems based on their training or in conjunction a therapist who is trained to treat mental disorders using therapy. Education and advocacy groups like the National Alliance for Mental Illness for Adults or Families as Allies for Children are also available. Sitaniel WImberly, the program director for Mississippi, stated that NAMI has chapters in Mississippi that offer education and support on mental illness to individuals and families. Ministries run by faith communities could also be a place to get help with mental health issues. Valerie McClellan is the program director at Solomon Counseling Center at Catholic Charities Jackson. She said that in 2018, 181 individuals and families were served by the non-profit’s outpatient mental healthcare services. McClellan stated that the three counselors offer a variety of services, including premarital counseling, family conflict, and children’s trauma services. Jo Hebert is a licensed professional counselor at St. Mark’s United Methodist, Flowood. She said that her eight-year-long ministry helped many people with a wide range of issues, including grief counseling, anxiety, depression, and issues stemming out of divorce. Hebert stated, “I get to know people where they are at the moment and help them find hope. Then I take steps to bring more hope.” Ladner stated that not everyone who has a mental illness needs to see a psychiatrist. She said that psychiatrists are only for 20% of people with chronic mental disorders. Hebert explained that counselors are trained to recognize when clients’ needs exceed their ability to provide support. A psychiatrist can help with more support in these cases. Adam Moore, communications director at the Department of Mental Health, stated that many people with severe or chronic mental illnesses are seen in local mental health centers located across the state. They are funded by the county boards of supervisors as well as the state Department of Mental Health. Moore stated that the centers must comply with state guidelines in order to be certified as mental health providers. However, they are not operated directly by the department. He said that they offer a variety of services including outpatient counseling, medication management, crisis management, and medication management. Moore explained that the state is divided into 14 regions with their own systems of satellite mental health offices. The department’s website has a provider locator that allows people to locate the nearest office for mental health treatment. Individuals in need of mental health treatment can dial a toll-free number within their area and speak with a crisis intervention team. They will assess the needs of the person and help them get back on track. Shareka Jefferson is the county administrator for Region 7 in Choctaw County, north Mississippi. She said that staff receive calls regularly to the hotline for assistance for individuals in need. Region 7 cannot offer inpatient services in the region as there are no facilities in the area. Instead, it can provide services at Clay County’s crisis center, which is a 16-bed facility located several miles away. Jefferson stated that the Choctaw County office has a psychiatrist who is available three times per month, and a psychiatric nurse practitioner once a month to manage medication. Jefferson stated that such an arrangement is not uncommon in Mississippi. She said, “There is a shortage in Mississippi psychiatrists.” Jo Ann Marsh, the director of Region 12 Pine Belt Mental Health Center, in south Mississippi, agreed with this assessment. Marsh stated that “we always need more of these people so we can assist more people.” Marsh stated that 565 employees cover nine facilities. Marsh explained that only two psychiatrists are employed, with several nurse practitioners filling the gaps in medication management. Inpatient services are often required in severe situations, such as suicide threats or attempts. According to Moore’s figures, the Department of Mental Health has 401 adult psychiatric bed for intensive inpatient care. There are 118 adult acute beds at Mississippi State Hospital, Whitfield and 75 continuing treatment service beds at South Mississippi State Hospital, Purvis and 50 adult acute beds at North Mississippi State Hospital, Tupelo, and 108 adult acute mental beds at East Mississippi State Hospital, Meridian. Nonprofit and for-profit hospitals are available to fill the gap for patients in need of inpatient care. Families of children suffering from mental illness should start to seek help at their schools. Moore stated that all 14 Community Mental Health Centers must offer their services in their local catchment areas to children and youth. Moore stated that in fiscal 2018, 22,074 children were served by School-Based Outpatient Therapy at 940 schools, which was administered by 620 school-based counselors. Nina Williams, the clinical director of Region 8 Mental Health, said that counselors are available in all 28 schools within the Rankin County Schools District. This pilot program could be replicated throughout the state. Williams stated that the goal was to catch children before they reach crisis level. Susan Varcie, public relations officer at the G.V., stated that veterans can get mental health care at any VA medical center near their home. (Sonny) Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Jackson. She said that Jackson VA has over 9,500 veterans enrolled in its mental health programs. Biloxi and Memphis VA services also provide care for Mississippi veterans. She noted that wait times can vary from zero at Natchez’s outpatient facility to 24 days at Greenville. Mike Chaney, state Insurance Commissioner, stated that insurance is required to cover mental illness as well as physical illnesses. Chaney pointed out that the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equality Act was first to require mental health care parity. In 2016, the Affordable Care Act made Mississippi’s mental health parity an essential health benefit. He said that the main problems are limited office visits and coverage for prescribed medication. The Mississippi Center for Investigative Journalism produced this story. This non-profit news organization aims to hold government officials accountable and empower citizens in their communities. Where to seek help: National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1-800-273-TALK Crisis numbers for Regional Health Centers: Region 1 – 888-404-8002 (Coahoma, Quitman, Tallahatchie, Tunica) Region 2 – 866-837-7521 (Calhoun, Lafayette, Marshall, Panola, Tate, Yalobusha) Region 3 – 866-255-9986 (Benton, Chickasaw, Itawamba, Lee, Monroe, Pontotoc, Union) Region 4 – 888-287-4443 (Alcorn, DeSoto, Prentiss, Tippah, Tishomingo) Region 6 – 866-453-6216 (Attala, Bolivar, Carroll, Grenada, Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena, Leflore, Montgomery, Sharkey, Sunflower, Washington) Region 7 – 888-943-3022 (Choctaw, Clay, Lowndes, Noxubee, Oktibbeha, Webster, Winston) Region 8 – 877-657-4098 (Copiah, Lincoln, Madison, Rankin, Simpson) Region 9 – 601-955-6381 (Hinds) Region 10 – 800-803-0245, after hours only (Clarke, Jasper, Kemper, Lauderdale, Leake, Neshoba, Newton, Scott, Smith) Region 11 – 877-353-8689 (Adams, Amite, Claiborne, Franklin, Jefferson, Lawrence, Pike, Walthall, Wilkinson) Region 12 – 888-330-7772 (Covington, Forrest, Greene, Jeff Davis, Jones, Lamar, Marion, Perry, Wayne) Region 13 – 800-681-0798 (Hancock, Harrison, Pearl River, Stone) Region 14 – 866-497-0690 (George, Jackson) Region 15 – 601-638-0031, goes to message menu (Warren, Yazoo) Department of Mental Health Crisis Line–1-877-210-8513 Veterans Crisis Line-1-800-273-8255, Press 1 NAMI Crisis Line: 1-800-750-6264 or test “NAMI” to 741-741 Social Security Administration–1-800-772-1213