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Mental Health Awareness: A Q&A with Dr. Jon Brett

5/19/2014

• In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, Dr. Jon Brett, a clinical psychologist with Newport Hospital’s Adult Partial Hospitalization Program, answers common questions about mental health. 

What are the most common mental health issues that you see in your practice?

Since I work in both inpatient and outpatient services at Newport Hospital, including the Partial Hospitalization Program, I see a large variety of mental health issues at all levels of acuity. Depressive disorders are the most commonly seen, but many patients also experience other disorders such as anxiety, psychotic, and co-occurring disorders. An example of a co-occurring issue would be someone dealing with both a mental health and substance abuse issue. The level of struggle, or acuity, would define where along the continuum of services that an individual would need to be placed and treated. 

How many people are affected by this issue/disorder?

Mental illness is an extremely significant problem in our culture. One in four adults, around 61.5 million Americans, will experience mental illness in a given year. Approximately 14.8 million people struggle with major depressive disorders, and serious mental illness costs the U.S. almost $200 billion per year in lost earnings. Depression is the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. among adults. It is for this reason that those of us who work in this field are constantly amazed that these disorders, being so rampant and common in our culture, still often present with such stigma and shame. 

What are the best forms of treatment?

The best way to treat depression is often the best way to treat many mental health issues and illnesses. Often, care has to be individualized and tailored to the person’s particular needs. However, in nearly every situation, treatment will be based on biological and medication needs, psychotherapeutic interventions and good support. For instance, depression is often treated with antidepressant SSRI medication, cognitive-behavioral or other appropriate psychotherapy, and adequate community and family support.   

Is hospitalization sometimes required?

Occasionally, there is a need for hospitalization. This usually occurs when the individual’s emotional state or mental illness is at a more acute level, and there is a need for an environment guaranteeing the structure and safety required to help stabilize and more comprehensively provide treatment. Typically, stays are short and the individual is able to step down to an outpatient level of care fairly quickly and then continue treatment and build a healthy recovery. 

What are the warning signs?

Warning signs tend to vary from person to person, but we do recommend that each individual become familiar with his/her constellation of symptoms that, if unattended to, could lead to a major depressive episode. If someone is mindful early on, when there are changes in appetite or sleep -- too little or too much -- concentration problems, helplessness and hopelessness, lack of motivation  and energy, beginning to withdraw or isolate or avoid others, or persistent sadness, then attention should be given. We call these ‘early warning’ signs, and dealing with them through various coping strategies, medication assessments and review, and talking with trusted others and mental health professionals can turn the tide. We strongly encourage individuals to speak up and seek help when they begin to notice their early warning signs. Sometimes there is a tendency to minimize, ignore or “stuff” concerns and feelings as the depressive tendency to isolate and withdraw increases. Our goal is early intervention to avoid a major problem.  

Learn more about the mental health services offered at Newport Hospital.