Science Art exists on a continuum. At one end of the spectrum is scientific illustration. This is art in the service of science used to teach concepts or visualize big ideas. At the other end is art inspired by science: plenty of art flash but short on science....
Mental health problems can affect anyone. Here are some facts:
- Based on the 2017 US Census, there are 251.4 million adults and 74.3 million children living in the US (Census.gov).
- About 1 and 5 adults in the US, 50.28 million, experience mental health issues (MentalHealth.gov). That number is almost twice the population of Texas, our second largest state.
- 1 in 10 people under 18, or 7.43 million, experience a period of major depression (MentalHealth.gov). That’s number is almost the population of New York City.
- 1 in 25 Americans, or 13.03 million, live with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression (MentalHealth.gov). That number is higher than all of Illinois’ population.
Three quarters of mental health disorders begin to show signs before a person turns 24, and two thirds of those before the age of 14 (MentalHealth.gov). Unfortunately, more than 4 of 5 children and adolescents with diagnosable problems don’t receive the treatment they need (MentalHealth.gov).
The facts seem scary, don’t they? But don’t worry; if you or someone else is experiencing difficulties, there’s help out there. Recovery is possible if you take advantage of the resources that are available in your community, and there is no shame or punishment for reaching out for help. In fact, all of those mental health professionals are there because they’ve dedicated themselves to doing their best to keep you healthy.
I work as a mental health counselor in a community hospital in the city of Chicago. We house an inpatient behavioral department where adults, including the elderly, need to be hospitalized so we can guide them through complications associated with their mental health. In an inpatient setting, each patient receives personal attention from a team of professionals. This arrangement is especially helpful in high-crisis situations that require immediate care.
Each patient receives help from a psychiatrist, who diagnoses and treats patients mental illness; a physician, who handles the patient’s other ailments; a social worker, who provides counseling and treatment resources; a therapist, who helps with emotions, building relationships, coping skills, and education; a nurse, who helps patients maintain their treatment regimen; and a mental health counselor who provides guidance and safety by managing the unit’s daily functions. Each professional follows the psychiatrist’s orders through their short-term or long-term stay.
In my role as a mental health counselor, I engage patients and advocate their treatment plan. I listen to patients, strategize plans of action to tackle their stressors, and support them as they seek to reach their goals during their stay. I’m also responsible for ensuring the safety of every patient. As departmental staff, we must be certified in Basic Life Support (BLS) and Non-violent Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI).
CPI involves de-escalating and redirecting patients from aggressive behaviors when they become angry. Sometimes the behavior is anticipated and sometimes it’s completely random. This training is designed to protect patients and staff in the event that aggression escalates from verbal to physical. These things do happen, unfortunately, and we have to ready because reasoning with an angry person is not always possible.
Before applying CPI, I try to identify when a patient is beginning to escalate. I look for non-verbal cues such as increased breathing, anxious behaviors, and body language like balled up fists, fidgeting, and posture. Then, I listen for verbal cues such as tone and volume of the patient’s voice, choice of vocabulary (which might not be so clean), and fast talking. This method goes against our natural fight-or-flight response to threatening behaviors — instead, we have to remain calm and remain aware of our own verbal and non-verbal cues, so as to not inadvertently anger the patient even more. It’s never a good idea to fight fire with fire.
One time I found use for my CPI training was when we found one of our patients actively hallucinating. He saw people chasing after him on the unit, became frightened, and was convinced that escaping the building was his only hope for survival. After our staff cleared the hallways of objects and other patients nearby, remembering my training, I slowly approached him in the most non-threatening way I knew how and spoke to him softly. I reminded him that he was in a hospital where he was safe and protected from any harm. I kept my distance and repeated again that he was safe. My reaffirmation of his safely and the tone of my voice helped calm him down without any need for me or anyone else to touch him.
My clinic also offers outpatient services for patients who need to continue with treatment after their stay. An outpatient can choose an individual professional to provide them with one-on-one help with a specific treatment plan. Most patients meet this professional on a weekly or monthly basis to manage and strengthen their skills toward reaching a specific goal. Different patients may choose to meet with a psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, therapist, or social worker based on their needs. Although each of these individuals can provide care, only a psychiatrist may prescribe medications.
Talk to your primary care doctor or another healthcare professional about your mental health. There is no punishment or shame in asking questions if you’re curious or in seeking help when you need it. When you’re talking to a mental health professional, all matters are taken seriously. Someone is always there to listen and help.
For general information on mental health and to locate services in your area, contact a live person, M-F from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST at SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline at 1-877-SAMHSA7 (877-726-4727). If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or use their Live Online Chat. If the situation is potentially life-threatening, please call 911.