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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday — February 4, 2004


Mental health panel convenes at St. Luke’s

Early intervention and dialogue stressed

Express Staff Writer

The Wood River branch of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill hosted a three-member panel discussion about the difficulties of intervention when dealing with the mentally ill Thursday, Jan. 29, at St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center.

Erin Hart, manager of the St. Luke’s Center for Community Health, facilitated the discussion.

The panel included Sally McCollum, a psychologist with the Wood River Counseling Center, who spoke in brief about imbalances in brain chemistry that can upset neurotransmitters most related to mood and cause mental illness. like.

McCollum said there is no one explanation for why a person becomes mentally ill. Deterioration of mental health may go unnoticed by someone who is suffering, or even by friends and family, she said.

Tom Hansen, another panel member and local NAMI president, shared his experiences as a father dealing with the mental illness of a family member. No one recognized the signs of depression until it manifested, Hansen said.

"We can treat with psychotherapy and effect biochemistry with medication," McCollum said. "People think pills won’t fix problems in life, but lifting mood can help (someone with mental illness) address the cause and triggers of depression," she said. "(Patients) don’t recognize when they are getting more depressed ... they can carry emotional pain longer than one should ..."

In his family’s case, Hansen said, the delay led to cycles and depths of depression that might have been avoided if diagnosed sooner.

The third panel member, Jeanne Pudoff-Oyen, shared her firsthand experience dealing with her mental illness that she said caused her to attempt suicide. She said medication can be essential to bringing someone out of depression, so they can then address the triggers of their illness, which in her case were related to stress. Pudoff-Oyen said as a state-licensed councilor she was deeply affected by the shame of her mental illness.

"It took seven months to find the right balance of (medication)," she said. The key to her recovery was finding a good team of health care providers and sharing her problem with the right friends. "Others can see (signs of depression) before I do ..." Pudoff-Oyen said, explaining that her perspective helped her survive, but others don’t have the same insight.

Hansen said a 12-week NAMI program called Family to Family helped him better understand mental illness. The latest round of classes is being held on Sundays from noon to 3 p.m. at the Light of the Mountains Spiritual Center on Highway 75 at Gimlet View.

Pudoff-Oyen offers her perspective of mental illness free of charge, and has a list of recommended reading for people looking for insight.

Anyone seeking more information can call Erin Hart at the St. Luke’s Center for Community Health in Hailey at 727-8733.




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