Hos­pi­tal hosts dis­cus­sion of men­tal, ad­dic­tion is­sues in Md.

Pro­fes­sion­als speak about men­tal health and sub­stance abuse

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By CHAR­LIE WRIGHT cwright@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Char­lieIndyNews

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.

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