Stamping out the stigma: educating Yazoo on mental health

By CATHRYN CARTWRIGHT,

October is Mental Health Awareness Month, and Warren Yazoo Behavioral Health is working to educate the community on the prevalence of mental illness and reduce the stigmas around seeking out help.

Miriam Bond, a social worker and clinical coordinator for psychosocial rehabilitation (PSR) at Warren Yazoo, said that one in five adults in the United States lives with a mental condition.

"Stigma is a big word we have been talking about lately," Bond said. "Some people don't want to come out here because they feel like others are going to be looking down on them."

Bond said that many people are hesitant to seek out help because of personal experiences or because of how it is viewed in their culture, religion, or social group.

"It’s hard for anybody to say there is a problem," Bond said. "Taking that first step is so big.  Mental illness doesn't discriminate, it can affect anybody, any education level, and any background."

Warren Yazoo offers a variety of services to suit the needs of every person that walks through their doors, including counseling and talk-therapy, peer support specialists, substance abuse and chemical dependency therapists, psycho-social rehabilitation groups, and even transitional living apartments.

Bond said that all a person needs to do to get started is to make an appointment.

"We have four therapists for adults that do intake assessments," she said. "We get an entire history, current symptoms, and try to get a whole picture of what is going on."

After a person completes the first step, they will move on to see a Psychiatrist or Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner who will make a final diagnosis and recommendation for treatment.

Bond said that another part of the stigma around mental health is the use of medication as a treatment option, but that it is not necessarily needed in all cases.

"Medication is just part of the puzzle, and it's a big one for a lot of people," she said. "Medication compliance is very important, but the therapy and following through with other recommendations from your therapist or doctor is all part of someone's recovery."

Many people may also be afraid of the potential cost of getting help, but Bond said that Warren Yazoo operates on a sliding scale based on the individual’s income and number of dependents.  WYBH also bills private insurances and accepts Medicaid and Medicare.

"Our first priority is to help people," Bond said. "For individuals with Medicaid there is no charge, and we can help you figure the rest out, especially if it's in a crisis situation."

Bond said that once a person has been seen by a doctor and qualifies for certain programs, that person may be eligible for on-site rehabilitation services which may enhance the patient's quality of life.

"We have two different psychosocial rehabilitation groups for older and younger people," Bond said.  "What we do is we educate them on their mental illness, and then we cover a variety of topics like medication compliance, the importance of abstaining from alcohol, and healthy living as far as nutrition and exercise and how that all plays a part into your mental wellness."

Bond added that the classes, which meet from 9 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. every weekday, offer these and other therapeutic activities for patients, as well as socialization, which is important in recovering from certain conditions such as depression or anxiety.

"We mix it up," she said. "We do arts and crafts, word puzzles, games like basketball and beanbag toss, and we even bring in people from the community or go on outings.  We are just trying to made it a welcoming and therapeutic place for them to come in and feel better about themselves."

Bond said that these rehabilitation services are effective thanks to the help of the PSR Director Lashell Steward and support staff members Starlette Rutledge, Sharon Moore, Roger Pennawell, and Rebecca Cope.

In their 2017 Annual Report, Warren Yazoo Behavioral Health served 2145 adults in the region, 1593 children, and handled 645 crisis and emergency calls, but there are still more people in need of services locally.

"I think we can all do our part in reducing stigma," Bond said. Whether you have a mental illness yourself or not, or are affected by it, our attitudes and beliefs affect others and how they respond."

Warren Yazoo Behavioral Health is located at 635 West Willie Morris Parkway in Yazoo City.  Appointments can be made locally by calling 662-746-5712, or individuals can call the 24/7 Crisis Hotline toll free at 1-888-558-2077.