Hospital hosts discussion of mental, addiction issues in Md.
Professionals speak about mental health and substance abuse
The University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center held a special viewing on Tuesday of “Not All Wounds are Visible,” a panel discussion on mental health and substance abuse.
The event took place at the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus but was broadcast live to around 30 viewers in the center’s Nagula Conference room. Those in attendance received complimentary breakfast as well as a notepad and pen for taking notes on the conversation, courtesy of the hospital.
Mental health and substance abuse are rising issues in Maryland, which prompted the gathering of medical professionals.
“We couldn’t be picking a better time and place to be talking about this issue,” said University of Maryland Medical System President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Chrencik. “Our Maryland communities — and that’s really what we’re all about here today — are challenged by very anxiety-producing events, and drug and alcohol abuse like never before. All of these problems affect everyone virtually all across the state.”
In Baltimore, one in six individuals reported poor mental health for at least eight days in a month; last year, 2,089 residents died of alcohol or substance abuse, a 66 percent increase from the previous year, Chrencik said.
Author and psychologist Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison headlined the group of speakers and opened the dialogue by describing her struggles living with bipolar disorder and mania. Jamison, now a professor at Johns Hopkins Medicine, seeks to inform the public about these mental illnesses through speaking engagements and writing.
“I have a disease,” Jamison said. “If I were to call it a mental health issue, that diminishes the severity and the notion of treatability.”
Her memoir “An Unquiet Mind” provides a firsthand account of dealing with bipolar disorder since adolescence. Jamison addressed the stigmas surrounding mental illnesses and how they are viewed differently than other diseases, despite the growing public knowledge of them.
“We need to convey to the public as well as to our colleagues how extensive our scientific understanding of mental illness really is,” Jamison said. “We know a lot. Public perception about mental illness lags decades behind what science teaches us.”
Following Jamison’s speech and a brief question-and-answer session, four health professionals delivered presentations on a variety of related topics. Grace Serafini, director of nursing at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, gave an overview of affective disorders and the aspects of an illness that elevate it from occasional emotions to a serious condition.
“All of these disorders affect your mood and your function,” Serafini said. “Your ability to go to work, your ability to be a student, your ability to be a parent, your ability to be in community with your colleagues or your friends. That’s the key difference between having some feeling states and disease.”
Curtis Adams, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, discussed psychosis through substance abuse and stress. This severe mental disorder causes erratic behavior and hallucinations, among other symptoms, and is most closely associated with schizophrenia and major depression. Also from the university, Dr. Carnell Cooper went over violence in the community and Dr. Eric Weintraub spoke about rising drug use in Maryland, the nation’s leader in opioid utilization.
After the panel fielded questions from the audience, Constance Noll of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association closed the proceedings with a discourse on combatting mental illness and supporting those with diseases.
“We are living in an extreme political environment,” Noll said. “What I want hopefully for people to do is not to lose their humanity, think about empathy and connections between human beings.”
The presentations will be made available on the University of Maryland Medical System website next week.