As a nurse, Lisa Smith knew about the stigma associated with mental illnesses, so it was difficult to see herself as a patient.
I had no idea how depressed I had become, Smith says. When she attempted suicide by insulin overdose in 2011 and was brought to the Regions Hospital Emergency Center, she tried to convince the doctor to let her go home.
I told him that I didn’t try to hurt anyone else. I didn’t consider myself a self. It took days for what I had done to sink in.
After Smith was admitted, hospital staff helped her manage the depression.
They allowed me to heal through their presence, listening, support and education, she says. They also involved her husband in her care and provided resources for her children. In addition, hospital staff helped Smith better manage her diabetes.
During the week Smith spent on the mental health unit, staff worked continuously to help patients manage anxiety.
We practiced deep breathing and meditation. We also spent time doing crafts, expressing ourselves in different ways. If you’ve never spent time thinking about yourself in a meaningful way, doing so can be a foreign concept, but it was the best part of my days on the unit.
When Smith was discharged, she received help from a social worker to ease her transition home.
I have good health insurance so I didn’t think a social worker could help me, but they gave me some really good resources. Social workers arranged Smith’s leave of absence from work, created a safe plan for her return home, and set up her continuing care and medication management.
Providing care in a supportive and healing environment
Today, Smith volunteers on a planning committee for the new mental health facility at Regions Hospital, which will open in December 2012. As a former patient, she understands the benefits of the future eight-floor, 100-bed facility, noting the private rooms, space for individual and group therapies, exercise room, and safe and secure outdoor patio.
According to Christine Stanson, MD, lead psychiatrist for Regions Hospital’s Psychiatry Consultation-Liaison Service, the new facility will do more than just improve the space—it will allow them to explore new approaches to mental health care.
We are already breaking new ground with our use of Illness Management and Recovery, Sensory Integration and other new approaches, Dr. Stanson says.
Combining this with research on best practices and efforts to fight the stigma associated with mental illnesses, we are charting new territory.
According to Smith, any new approach will be built on an already solid foundation of mental health care.
I am so grateful for the care I received from the people at Regions… Without them, my children would not have their mother, my husband would not have his wife and my patients would not have their nurse… Things could not have turned out better.