Intro by Ron Beacom:
If a person is struggling with mental health issues, there can be dire outcomes: self-harm including death, estrangement from family and friends, job and financial loss, and a withdrawal from everyday life. Our society is learning that we need to bolster the services that are provided to help.
We asked a leading behavioral health professional to share her perspective. Kathy Dollard, Psy.D., L.P. has been the director of the behavioral health service line for nearly five years at MyMichigan Health. Behavioral health services there include inpatient care, outpatient services including care for treatment resistant depression (ECT, TMS, Spravato) and medication for addiction treatment (MAT), individual and group therapy, integrated behavioral health in primary care offices, crisis care in the emergency department and via telemedicine and pediatric applied behavior analysis (ABA). This spring, MyMichigan will launch a partial hospitalization program in Midland.
Article by Kathy Dollard
This past year was difficult for many of us. The ongoing stresses of the pandemic exacerbated pre-existing behavioral health concerns, and people who are normally quite resilient found that their tanks were running dry. Survey data showed an increase in depression, anxiety and substance use as the pandemic lingered. What’s more, in some regions, children’s hospitals declared states of emergency for children’s behavioral health as emergency departments were inundated with children waiting for inpatient psychiatric beds that were already full. This sad scene is also playing out in our area on a smaller scale.
Approximately 1 in 5 adult Americans live with a mental illness, with conditions ranging from commonly occurring depression and anxiety to schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and bipolar disorder, among many others.
While there is a growing need, it has also been difficult to hire behavioral health professionals. Local providers are doing their best and some are working together for new solutions such as a behavioral health telehub, which has been very successful. In fact, seemingly overnight, visits that always took place in office settings were now being done using computers, iPads and phones from the comfort of home. People now have the option to complete appointments remotely, either with local providers or providers found via the internet. Insurance started covering remote visits, and this is likely to continue. At the end of the day, if there is any good that has come from our situation, it is that telemedicine has expanded access to care to people who could never or would never set foot in a psychiatrist or therapist office.
In addition to telemedicine for behavioral health, several mobile apps have been developed to help with sleep, mood and stress. Here at home, Community Mental Health for Central Michigan has offered MyStrength
a free mobile app that addresses a variety of behavioral health issues. NAMI Midland continues to offer groups via Zoom, and MyMichigan Health has offered virtual groups on battling loneliness with a new group starting on Jan. 11, 2022.
Behavioral health services include inpatient care and outpatient services.
Always the optimist, I am hopeful that we will come out of this experience with more empathy and understanding for others and with decreased stigma around behavioral health and seeking care. More people are coming forward to talk about behavioral health and this openness and support busts stigma.
Also, on a positive note, for the past few years Midland has been engaged in a tremendous movement in positive psychology and wellbeing. Many efforts are taking place to help our community not just get back to baseline, but to be a community where all people thrive. We will get through this together. One step at a time.