Helping Hands for Mental Illness

Mental illness is a life long journey. It does not go away; however, a person can recover by rising above the circumstances. They must learn to manage their symptoms. They must have a reason to get up in the morning. They must have a sense of purpose. Those struggling with mental illness know that this is easier said than done. Helping hands are needed.

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by Marion Bono
by Marion Bono

There are many available services to help someone understand and manage their symptoms. People new to the system are often puzzled. What are these services?  How can I find these services? Who can help?

 No one person with mental illness needs all the services so the bits and pieces must be collected from various places to meet individual needs. Education and support for the person with the diagnosis and the family members is essential. A united aggressive and assertive effort is needed to find out what is available. The following scenario is offered as an example of how a person finds out about some services during hospitalization, at discharge from the hospital, and after discharge.

 During hospitalization it is common for the patient to receive information about the illness and the importance of staying on medication. Some hospital social workers offer to begin the paper work to apply for disability, if appropriate. Many psychiatric hospitals include the family to get a complete family history and invite the family to treatment team meetings. Some include family nights where the family is educated about mental illness. More and more professionals are realizing that an educated family helps prevent relapse and facilitates recovery. Some recommend NAMI courses and support groups for the person with mental illness and for their family.

 

Often hospital programs invite the family to the discharge conference.

Frequently the discharge plan includes valuable information and suggestions about housing, day programs, entitlements, medication, and managing symptoms.  It is never wrong to ask the hospital if these services are available to you and your family member.

 

After discharge, the patient might need a long period of rest and sleep

to recover from the trauma inflicted on the brain by a psychotic break. In the meantime, family members can investigate available help. One agency will come into the home and provide a variety of services including how to prevent another hospitalization. Day treatment programs provide transportation to outpatient programs that assist in the transition from hospitalization to home.  The many services the day treatment programs offer are all geared to helping the patient develop and improve their ability to function. Upon discharge, there are free apartments for a limited amount of time for those who are homeless or not allowed back into their homes. Positive Connections, a Calcasieu parish school, is exclusively for children with mental illness. Other programs have case managers that provide long term support to help the individual in living independently in the community.  When the individual is ready to go to work, there is an agency that assesses their job skills, finds them additional training, places them in a job, and supplies a job coach if necessary.

 

Call, ask questions, tell them what you need. These professionals are in a “helping position.” Their jobs are devoted to helping people get better.

For more information on these services, call or look on line for the following: Assertive Community Treatment, Volunteers of America, MMO Behavioral Health Systems, Bridgeway Psychiatric Center, Positive Connections Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana Rehabilitation, Resource Management, the National Alliance of Mental Illness of Southwest Louisiana. In addition, call 2-1-1 which is a centralized, consolidated, ever evolving, and continually updated information and referral system for Southwest Louisiana.

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Marion Bono, a member of NAMISWLA, facilitates a support group and teaches the Family-to-Family course, from which these articles are taken.
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