Integrated mental health services reduce stigma

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In case you haven’t heard it from a musician, actor, or athlete before, it’s OK to not be OK.

Really.

As mental health receives more attention and scrutiny during the pandemic, chronic anxiety related to exposure to COVID-19 and difficulties with isolation are huge contributing factors to mental illness. increase in anxiety and depression, financial stress or worry and uncertainty.

In these difficult times, Samaritan makes it easier to find help by integrating behavioral health care into traditional medical settings, like doctor’s offices and clinics.

Rachel Bailey, DO, is a primary care clinician at the Samaritan Depoe Bay Clinic, where many mental health issues can be addressed in one office visit.

“Mental health is the foundation of our overall health,” Dr. Bailey said. “All you have to do is ask and be open to positive change.”

Mental health is one of eight aspects of well-being (body, mind, environment, spirit, community, emotions, finances, and work) that can affect quality of life. Concerns such as anxiety, depression, relationship issues, grief, or loss can be discussed during a behavioral health consultation.

Even with more open dialogue about mental health during the pandemic, there’s still stigma to overcome, said Robert Fallows, PsyD, neuropsychologist at Samaritan.

“There are lots of ways to get help,” Dr Fallows said. “We want to meet patients where they are and strive to create an environment where people are aware of options and seek the help they need.”

Many Samaritan primary care clinics are supported by behavioral health providers including psychologists, neuropsychologists, clinical social workers and mental health specialists who may meet with clinic patients to review their skills to reduce emotional distress.

Some people appreciate having behavioral health care available as part of the primary care office.

“These sessions tend to be very effective in promoting positive mental health,” Dr. Fallows said.

There are also longer term mental health therapy and medication management programs. The addition of behavioral health specialists, who help patients manage their illnesses, has increased access to mental health services. Mental health specialists collect detailed information from patients. This information is shared with a psychiatrist… who then advises clinicians on potentially helpful medications and other therapies. This ensures that clinicians are comfortable and knowledgeable with prescribing psychiatric medications.

Planning is underway for a mental health medical home in Lebanon, a place for adult patients with severe persistent mental illnesses, including psychotic disorders, chronic suicidal tendencies, personality disorders, severe forms of PTSD as well as chronic or complex medical conditions. When it opens, Samaritan Medical Group Mental Health and its community partners will provide comprehensive treatment and better care through a team approach.

Samaritan clinicians are also united in addressing suicide concerns using common language, assessments, and interventions. Clinicians and office staff have been trained to spot signs of increased risk for suicidal behavior or self-harm, provide a warm and empathetic environment, assess the situation safely, and help patients remove danger.

“That last part is critical,” Dr. Fallows said.

Almost half of people who die by suicide have been seen by a clinician in the past month.

“If we can identify and help the patient remove the means, there may be a substantial decrease in the risk of self-harm,” he said.

Safety plans may include locked boxes for medications and firearms or placement of these items with people you trust.

Oregon had the 13th highest suicide rate in the nation for all ages in 2020, with 833 deaths. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24, and men and boys are 3.5 times more likely to die from attempted suicide. Veterans account for 18% of suicide deaths in the United States

Suicide is not an uncommon consequence of mental health problems, Dr. Fallows pointed out.

“Thoughts of suicide are common,” he said. “As with any other condition, when we catch it early and support people, we are more likely to help them stay safe.”

We can all help prevent suicide. Free and confidential assistance for you or a loved one is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Oregon’s Safe + Strong Helpline, 800-923-HELP (4357)24/7 Suicide Prevention National Lifeline, 800-273-8255.

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