A Journey Through Mental Illness

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By News Team on November 3, 2016


My husband and I lost a dear friend.  He killed himself.  We will never fully understand why.  We talk about how funny he was, how kind he was, how full of life he always seemed.  We wish he had reached out to us, to his friends.  We wish he had confided in his family.  None of us will ever know the true extent of the pain he was feeling emotionally.

Unfortunately, this is not a unique story in many ways.  Mental health is an issue that affects so many people in one way or another. 

For instance, Sarah Beth Hoyt first told her mom she wanted to kill herself when she was only four years old. She was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and now she wants to help others in her situation know that there is hope for happiness.

“I compared depression to a hole," said Sarah. "You are stuck in it. You are falling deeper and deeper and it is getting darker and darker. The only way you can get out is if someone reaches out and gets you.”

Lisa Dishner and her psychiatry team at Carilion Clinic are working to strengthen that critical lifeline for patients like Sarah.

"It is important not to judge patients with mental illness," she explained. "A lot of times they can’t control what is going on."

Lisa and her team have worked hard to develop a suicide risk reduction program for patients like Sarah, but part of Lisa's own passion for the program also comes from personal experience. Her father killed himself nearly five years ago.

“I was able to witness firsthand the stigma that he experienced with mental health," said Lisa. "He was judged on things that he could not control, which ultimately led to him taking his own life."

Fortunately, therapy, counseling and finding the right medicine made a made a difference for Sarah.

”The best day ever is the day that I can go through life not feeling crushed, and feel like I am doing amazing and feel amazing even if it is an ordinary day with nothing exceptional happening," explained Sarah. "It feels amazing because it is not crushing me like it used to.”

Sarah uses her artwork and poetry to express her emotions. Emotions that include a belief that with openness and understanding all things are possible.

If you or someone you know is in need of mental health services, please contact our free community resource, Carilion CONNECT. CONNECT is a confidential, 24-hour emergency evaluation and referral service staffed by psychiatric nurses and clinical social workers who are trained to help people connect to the psychiatric and behavioral medicine support they need. Call 540-981-8181 or 800-284-8898 for assistance.