People from all walks of life grapple with serious personal challenges at some point, and seeking help with those is something no one should be ashamed of, says Aruna Kodali, M.D., a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist with Centered Health. At its rehabilitation center in Malibu, California, adolescents struggling with addiction and co-occurring mental health issues receive care and guidance from collaborative teams of therapists and psychiatrists, and the people closest to the client are considered an essential part of the recovery process. Kodali spoke with us about Centered Health and overcoming the stigma that discourages people from getting treatment.
How can a family member or friend effectively raise the possibility of residential treatment?
Family members and/or friends can be huge factors in getting someone to residential treatment. They can help make someone know that they may have a problem. They can provide that awareness, as well as support the person along the way, if they do accept residential treatment. Family members are especially key for our adolescent patients who may not know what resources and options are available to them. In these cases, family members are not only essential in getting one to treatment but are also a large component of the actual treatment process. This includes participating in family therapy sessions, as well as consulting with the treatment team regularly. Family members and/or friends ultimately play a large role, and can be a key part of one's recovery.
Is there an area of mental health or substance abuse that you think is particularly stigmatized in today's culture?
Unfortunately, it seems every area of mental health or substance abuse carries a stigma in today's culture. Stigma comes from many different places. For example, television, movies, and social media have all propagated a stigma against mental health and substance use. Stigma also comes from culture and environment. In particular, family systems can transfer stigma to younger generations. However, all these different sources of stigma can also be utilized to dispel stigma. Awareness is a very important thing, and awareness can come from television, media, and social media, as well as from families. It does seem lately things are swinging more towards awareness, which is promising, and I do hope that this continues.
How can we better serve youth with mental health concerns?
There are many ways we can better serve youth with mental health concerns. One way is to increase awareness and provide more mental health education to youth. Oftentimes, young people with mental illness do not know how to identify what they are experiencing or do not realize that what they are experiencing could be treated or improved. Also, if there was less stigma about mental health, I think youth would be more willing and able to come forward about their experiences. In addition, there is a shortage of child and adolescent mental health providers. If there were more providers available nationwide, we would be able to increase access to care. Often times people know they need treatment, but there is no one available to provide that service, which is truly unfortunate.
How can we better serve low-income individuals with mental health and substance abuse concerns?
I think one of the most important ways that we can better serve low-income individuals and families with mental health and/or substance abuse concerns is to improve access to care. We need to make sure that there are resources for people who are uninsured or who can not afford treatment. Despite changes to the healthcare programs in the United States, including the Mental Health Parity Act and the Affordable Care Act, access issues still come up, particularly for low-income individuals and families. In addition, the future of healthcare in the United States is uncertain at this time, and any changes that are made could have a potential impact on low-income individuals and families, particularly in the areas of mental health and substance abuse treatment.
What have you learned from the people you work with?
I learn so much from the people I work it. It is imperative to maintain a collaborative approach as a mental health provider. I think it is important for therapists to be coordinating with psychiatrists and vice-versa. The collaborative care approach provides more thorough and comprehensive care for patients. Each different provider will be able to get new insight and perhaps new ideas about how to approach a patient or a problem area that the patient is having. In addition, it is beneficial as a provider to be able to have another provider available and to rely on in situations of need. In my experience, patients always appreciate the fact that their therapist and psychiatrist are working together to help their needs.
If you could make one change in the culture's perception of mental illness or substance abuse, what would it be?
If I could make one change in the culture's perception of mental illness and substance abuse, it would be to have everyone realize and understand that everyone faces significant challenges and difficulties at points in their lives. I would want everyone to realize that this experience is universal, it is normal, and in fact even expected. I want everyone to realize they are not alone and have nothing to be ashamed of. Anyone and everyone could benefit from additional support that is provided with a therapist. Seeking out treatment or asking for that additional help or support is nothing to be ashamed of, and many different types of people do so at different points in their lives, especially when they are facing these challenging or difficult times.
For more information on this facility, visit: CenteredHealth.com