Finding support for mental disorders, substance abuse and anxiety
According to Mental Health America of Wisconsin, an estimated 22.1 percent of Americans ages 18 and older—about one in five (or over 44 million) adults—suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. Many suffer from more than one mental disorder at a given time, and depressive illnesses tend to co-occur with substance abuse and anxiety disorders. Chances are, you or someone you know suffers from alcoholism, addiction, depression, anxiety or some combination of all four.
Making the decision to seek treatment for your own issues is difficult, but watching a loved one struggle can be just as challenging. If a person is a serious threat to himself or others, you can call the police and have him brought to the hospital against his will—but what about situations that are less dire? People in the throes of addiction or depression often underestimate their own problem, or are less than honest with their healthcare practitioners. If you suspect someone you care about is suffering, you may not actually be as helpless as you feel.
“One thing I don’t think people realize is you can call your loved one’s doctor and express your concerns,” says Dr. Leslie Taylor of Dean Foundation. “Of course privacy laws restrict me from sharing any information, but I am happy to silently listen to what a concerned spouse has to say. As a doctor, I actually find that very helpful.”
Ultimately, all you can do is be open, clear, loving and non-judgmental about your concerns in hopes that the suffering person will seek his or her own treatment—of which there is a vast array of options in Madison. Dean Foundation conducts research trials to study depression, anxiety disorders, Attention Deficit Disorder, Alzheimer’s, alcoholism or alcohol dependence, and smoking cessation.
“We offer medication to treat the depression or the drinking, as well as motivational counseling,” says Taylor, who also sees patients one-on-one. “We try to meet people where they’re at, instead of demanding they be abstinent.”
Mental Health and Addiction: The Chicken Or the Egg?
Anyone who has ever struggled with addiction or mental health knows that often these issues go hand in hand. How many alcoholics suffer from depression? How many people abuse prescription drugs to self-medicate anxiety? In the past, most patients were told they needed to get their alcohol or drug addiction under control before they could even begin to address any mental health issues, but today things have changed.
“There is a lot of overlay between addictive behaviors and mental health, and it’s often a chicken or egg question,” says Taylor. “When I first started practicing you never treated someone while they were drinking. Now we recognize how hard it is to quit and believe we should use as many different resources as we can.”
Dr. James G. Van Den Brandt, LCSW, manager of behavior health services at Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin (GHC-SCW), concurs.
“The field is doing a better job of integrating care in order to treat dual diagnosis conditions, like post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse, or depression and alcoholism,” says Van Den Brandt. “We are also getting better at integrating behavioral health into primary health care.”
Keeping the whole health picture in mind, the GHC-SCW staff of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and counselors provide behavioral health services at four clinics and contract with Gateway Recovery of Madison to help treat drug and alcohol addiction.
Gateway offers services including assessment, out-patient treatment and intensive out-patient treatment via individual, family and group formats depending on a patient’s unique care plan. GHC-SCW contracts with additional substance abuse treatment facilities for services like detoxification, partial hospitalization, residential and inpatient treatment.
“A generally accepted definition of moderate drinking for women is no more than one drink a day, and no more than two a day for men,” says Van Den Brandt. In addition to the quantity and frequency of use, consider the effect alcohol or drugs have on your life and the lives of the people around you. Ask yourself if alcohol or drug use is causing you problems at school, work or home. Do you ever feel guilty about your use? Depressed? Unmotivated? Do you ever wonder if you have a problem? Do others?
“When addressed early, substance use problems are very treatable,” says Van Den Brandt. “Left untreated, they usually worsen and take a great toll on functioning and quality of life. Treatment works, and recovery starts with understanding that you may have a problem.”
As for mental health issues, “Most everyone experiences rough spots in their lives, but when these feelings become overwhelming and last for long periods of time they can keep people from leading a normal, active life,” says Van Den Brandt. He points out depression is “more than simply feeling sad,” though that is one of the symptoms. Look also for difficulty concentrating; fatigue; feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, pessimism or helplessness; insomnia; overeating or appetite loss; lost of interest in activities once enjoyed; and, of course, thoughts of suicide.
“If you have thoughts of not wanting to live or harming yourself or anyone else, talk to someone immediately,” says Van Den Brandt. “Contact a mental health professional, or contact the local suicide hotline at 608-280-2600 or the national hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE.”
For those looking for a middle-ground mental health treatment between hospitalization and traditional weekly counseling, Rogers Memorial Hospital offers an effective alternative: partial hospitalization. Rogers Memorial has a long history of successfully treating addiction and mental health issues in Oconomowoc, and in October 2010 they brought this expertise to Science Drive in Madison, establishing one of Wisconsin’s only stand-alone, not-for-profit behavioral health hospitals.
Dr. Jerry Halverson is medical director of adult services at Rogers Memorial Hospital, but before coming to Rogers, he worked for several years on an inpatient hospital unit in Madison.
“One of the problems we had was there were many patients that were not sick enough to need to be in the hospital, but they were still sick enough where we didn’t feel comfortable having them just follow-up once a week with their therapist or psychiatrist,” says Halverson.
Partial Hospitalization at Rogers Memorial Hospital is a six-hours-a-day, five-days-a-week, three-to-four-week program utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT is a therapy used to slow down automatic negative thought processes, recognizing problematic behaviors and working to develop healthier responses. Rogers Memorial Hospital specializes in helping people transition from a psychiatric hospital stay and also offers a supplement to existing outpatient therapy, or an alternative for people who know they are heading for crisis. Although the Oconomowoc location offers a full range of addiction and mental health treatment options, Rogers in Madison is not a
rehabilitation facility for addiction issues, and people suffering from psychotic illnesses would also need to look elsewhere—but Madison-area adults with chronic depression and anxiety may find just the right treatment balance they’ve been looking for.
“We treat people who have been depressed for some time. Maybe their medications aren’t working, or they’re not sick enough for the hospital but not well enough for weekly counseling, and they want to try an intensive brand of therapy that hasn’t existed before in our town,” says Halverson. “With partial hospitalization you still have the structured day meeting with doctors, therapists, nurses, dieticians, as well as group psychotherapy and experiential therapy, but you can go home to your regular life. You don’t have to spend the night in the hospital.”
Whether it’s depression, anxiety, alcoholism or substance abuse, the Madison area is flush with treatment options for people across the spectrum. Don’t forget free and anonymous 12-step groups—Alcoholics Anonymous, for instance, now estimates its U.S. membership numbers at 1.2 million Americans. The key is asking for help, and allowing the professionals to assess your specific needs—which may be very different from those of your friends. The bottom line is you don’t have to suffer, and you’re not alone.