Piedmont wants to erase stigma over mental health

MARTINSVILLE — “It isn’t always easy to make the decision to seek mental health treatment,” stated Sharon Buckman, Piedmont Community Services’ clinical division director.


“Once the decision is made, navigating the treatment system can be a challenge,” Buckman wrote in an email. “Long waits for appointment times increase the likelihood that a person will have a change of heart or give up on seeking services.”


“Sometimes this leads to a mental health crisis requiring psychiatric hospitalization, when earlier access to outpatient care could have prevented the emergency,” Buckman wrote.


She added that to improve access to services, Piedmont Community Services implemented same-day assessment in April 2018. Residents of the city of Martinsville and Henry, Patrick and Franklin counties can walk into one of three outpatient locations and have an assessment for services the day of the request.


Piedmont Community Services wanted to use World Mental Health Day, this past Wednesday, as an opportunity to talk about behavioral health concerns and services, Greg Preston, the agency’s executive director, stated in an email.


More than 800,000 people worldwide will kill themselves this year — more than the population of Washington, D.C., Oslo or Cape Town, according to a commentary letter co-written by Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, and Lady Gaga, singer and co-founder of Born This Way Foundation. The Guardian originally published the commentary, and it appears on the World Health Organization website.


Ghebreyesus and Lady Gaga made points, including:

—”Suicide is the most extreme and visible symptom of the larger mental health emergency we are so far failing to inadequately address. Stigma, fear and lack of understanding compound the suffering of those affected and prevent the bold action that is so desperately needed and so long overdue.”

—One in four people will have to deal with a mental health condition at some point in their lives. If people are not directly affected, someone they care for is likely to be. Suicide ranks as the second-leading cause of death globally among 15- to 29-year-olds. Half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14.

—”Yet despite the universality of the issue, we struggle to talk about it openly or to offer adequate care or resources. Within families and communities, we often remain silenced by a shame that tells us that those with mental illness are somehow less worthy or at fault for their own suffering.

“Instead of treating those facing mental health conditions with the compassion we would offer to someone with a physical injury or illness, we ostracize, blame and condemn. in too many places, support services are non-existent and those with treatable conditions are criminalized — literally chained up in inhumane conditions, cut off from the rest of society without hope.”

—Mental health receives less than 1 percent of global aid, and domestic financing on prevention, promotion and treatment is similarly low.

Buckman wrote that Piedmont Community Services provides same-day assessment on a first-come, first-served basis.

She added: “An engagement specialist will meet with anyone seeking services to discuss service requests, gather demographic information and provide orientation to Piedmont’s services. Then a licensed mental health professional, or a clinician who is under supervision for licensure, will complete a clinical assessment.”

“This includes a review of strengths and needs, symptoms, social/situational concerns and service needs,” Buckman wrote. “Treatment recommendations are made based on the clinical assessment, and follow-up appointments are provided to begin the recommended services. The goal is to have follow-up appointments available within 10 business days.”


Buckman wrote that same-day assessment is available to adults, children and families.


“Generally, same-day assessment hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Assessment hours end earlier on days when Piedmont closes early due to holidays,” Buckman wrote.


For more information, visit the Piedmont Community Services website at www.piedmontcsb.org and click on the link “Access Services.”


By the numbers

On its website, the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s Virginia chapter cites statistics about mental illness in the commonwealth, including:

—Approximately 1.1 million to nearly 1.5 million adults in Virginia (at least 18 years old) have “any mental illness” (the presence of any mental, behavioral or emotional disorder in the past year that met certain criteria).

— Approximately 239,750 to 305,000 have a serious mental illness. Serious mental illness in adults means a disorder meeting certain criteria and that substantially interfered with or or limited one or more major life activities and caused urgent need for treatment.

—National prevalence rates suggest that approximately 100,000 children and adolescents in Virginia have a serious emotional disorder, with about 65,000 of them being extremely impaired.

—Nearly 250,000 adults in Virginia live with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.

—Nearly one in four of Virginia’s jail inmates live with a mental health disorder.

—Nationally, about 15 to 20 percent of returning veterans have post-deployment mental health problems.

—In Virginia, suicide ranked 11th for cause of death among residents. Suicide ranked the third leading cause of death among 10- to 24-year-olds.


Paul Collins reports for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at paul.collins@martinsvillebulletin.com