Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Compass for Navigating the Mental Health Journey in Troubled Times

Massachusetts General Hospital Web Site Reaches Out, Offering Videotaped Stories from Patients and Their Loved Ones Along with Guidance from Mental Health Experts

BOSTON –Although many people affected by the economic downturn could benefit from mental health treatment and services, two factors typically discourage them from seeking help: the stigma often associated with mental health conditions, and the feeling of not knowing how to find the right mental health care providers, information, and services. A web site ( recently re-launched by Massachusetts General Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry addresses both of these issues, providing authoritative information from psychiatry experts blended with filmed segments of patients and their loved ones candidly sharing their experiences on the journey toward wellness.

In video segments on the web site, patients and family members share their unique and personal stories in an effort to reach people who may be feeling isolated or unsure about what they can do if they suspect they may need mental health care. In addition to the video segments that describe patients’ experiences during the various stages of the journey toward mental health, the site offers a comprehensive body of information, guidance and support resources. Although vast amounts of health information are available online, the material on the web site comprises practical guidance, vetted by trusted sources, and drawn from the latest research advances.

“We’re particularly heartened that so many patients and their family members have chosen to appear online openly sharing their own experiences,” said Jerrold Rosenbaum, MD, Chief of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. “In doing so they have become integral partners with our clinicians and researchers to raise awareness and provide helpful information to others in need, in a compassionate, candid, and respectful manner.”

As many as one in four adults in the United States suffer from a diagnosable mental health condition in an average year. In the current deepening recession, with families directly feeling the effects of a seemingly endless stream of grim economic news, those numbers can be expected to swell, and the challenges for those with mental health vulnerabilities are likely to intensify. While mental health recovery may take time, most conditions can be successfully treated and managed with early detection, appropriate diagnosis and treatment, and the support of family, friends, and the community.

“Our goal in creating this web site is to empower people to recognize mental health problems, seek appropriate diagnosis and treatment, and get the support they need on their journey toward wellness,” notes Karen Blumenfeld, Director of the Mood & Anxiety Disorders Institute (MADI) Resource Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, who led development of the web site. “The powerful video segments take a stand against stigma by showing a diverse and articulate group of individuals speaking openly about their experiences dealing with mental health conditions,” notes Blumenfeld.

The video interviewees share their perspectives on six distinct stages along a journey of recovery from mental illness – awareness; the search for help; diagnosis; considering treatment options; finding support; and living, loving and coping.

Jonathan Burke, a patient at Massachusetts General Hospital, knows first-hand about living with mental health challenges. He suffered from severe paranoia and delusions for six years, psychotic obsessions and compulsions and ultimately from major depression. “I did not believe I was sick and refused treatment. In fact, I was incredibly hostile to the idea of treatment, believing it was just another part of the conspiracy,” he said. “Had this web site existed when I finally found myself ready to consider treatment, it would have been helpful. The video clips of people talking about their personal mental health journeys are reassuring and gentle. This is exactly the right tone when reaching out to those who are unsure of what lies ahead.”

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The MADI Resource Center, of the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry, educates individuals, families, caregivers, and the community about mental health conditions. The Center translates the latest mental health research advances into practical information with the goal of helping individuals achieve early detection, appropriate diagnosis and treatment, and support on their journey toward wellness. The Center offers information, resources and support through its web sites, informational materials, support groups, and free seminars for the public. Recent public education seminars have featured leading researchers presenting findings on a broad range of mental health topics including: depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, alternative and complementary medicine, mental health in children and teens, mood and memory in older adults, and addictions ( and

The MGH Department of Psychiatry includes more than 600 affiliated psychiatrists and psychologists who provide state-of-the-art assessment and care for individuals with mental health conditions. Our providers -- many of whom are world leaders in their fields -- are uniquely trained as clinicians, researchers, and teachers. The Department has the largest clinical research program in the hospital, with ground-breaking studies in neuroscience, genetics, and the assessment of new and established treatments for mental health conditions. The Department of Psychiatry has earned the #1 ranking in psychiatry in the U.S. News & World Report annual survey “America’s Best Hospitals” each year since 1996 (



Founded in 1811, the MGH is the third oldest general hospital in the United States and the oldest and largest in New England. The 900-bed medical center offers sophisticated diagnostic and therapeutic care in virtually every specialty and subspecialty of medicine and surgery. Each year the MGH admits more than 46,000 inpatients and handles nearly 1.5 million outpatient visits at its main campus and health centers. Its Emergency Department records nearly 80,000 visits annually. The surgical staff performs more than 35,000 operations and the MGH Vincent Obstetrics Service delivers more than 3,500 babies each year. The MGH conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the country, with an annual research budget of approximately $500 million. It is the oldest and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, where nearly all MGH staff physicians serve on the faculty (


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