Friday, June 26, 2015

Visiting Day sheds light on mental illness

STRONG CONNECTIONS: From left, MGH Leadership Council for Psychiatry co-chairs Carroll Carpenter and Michele Kessler; Nicholson; Patty Ribakoff; and Rosenbaum

Seeking to shed light on mental health issues and reduce the stigma that surrounds mental illness, nearly
120 physicians, patients, families and supporters gathered June 8 for the fourth annual Visiting Day event, hosted by the MGH Leadership Council for Psychiatry.

Britain Nicholson, MD, chief medical officer, welcomed attendees and emphasized the importance of integrating
mental health care across the hospital. “Our mental health partnerships extend throughout the hospital – in cardiology, in transplant and other surgeries, endocrinology and oncology,” he said. “As chief medical officer, I am committed to creating ever stronger connections with our colleagues in mental health.”

As an example of the hospitalwide commitment to mental health, Nicholson pointed to the MGH’s major initiative to “address the scourge of addiction” as part of its 10-year strategic plan. “We now treat addiction like other chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease,” he said, noting that the MGH screens and treats people with substance use disorders in the hospital and connects them with outpatient services once they leave.

Jerrold Rosenbaum, MD, MGH psychiatrist-in-chief, described the importance of doctors building a trusting relationship with their patients before treatment can be truly effective. “The patients want to know the doctor cares before they care what the doctor knows,” he said. “We use all the craft, art, tools and treatments available to us to establish trust with our patients.”

Rosenbaum introduced a panel of speakers at an innovative session called “Stories of Recovery.” Three patients, paired with their MGH psychiatrists, told their stories about recovery from addiction, depression and the challenges of taking care of a spouse with dementia.

One speaker who is recovering from years of addiction to opiate drugs discussed the pain and shame of his relapses into drug addiction. Even harder than coping with the physical dependence on the drugs, he said, was the mental addiction. “It was almost like having another being inside me.” 

His treatment with Eugene Beresin, MD, executive director of the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, led to his recovery although he said he knows that staying sober is a lifelong effort.

Patty Ribakoff, co-chair of the MGH Philanthropy Program, captured the spirit of the event when she read a passage from her essay, “If These Walls Could Talk.”

“If these walls could touch, they would embrace the scores of patients that have passed through these doors, carrying a multitude of ailments. They would touch the shoulders of patients here now and for generations to come and say ‘You are safe because every resource available for your care, bar none, is here.’”

Read more articles from the 06/26/15 Hotline issue.

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