A fresh start. It’s what everyone wants for the New Year.
“In order to strengthen ourselves and start the New Year off in a fresh way, we have to focus on resilience,” says Dr. Siquilla Liebetrau, vice president of clinical services for Bowen Center. “Resilience is our way of getting through difficult things in a smoother fashion. The reality is, we’re always going to have stresses. There are always going to be difficult life events. We can’t avoid them, but we can certainly strengthen ourselves so we can get through hard things in an easier way.”
With its corporate office located in Warsaw, Bowen Center is the largest Community Mental Health Center in Indiana. The nonprofit organization offers mental health, primary health and substance use services to children, adults and families.
“Recent statistics show three out of five Americans are struggling with resilience,” says Dr. Liebetrau. “Their resilience is not well because of everything going on like the lingering effects of Covid, financial stresses and world stresses. There are some very basic steps you can take to improve your resilience. Getting exercise can make a huge difference. You don’t have to go out and run a marathon. It can be something as simple as going for a 20-minute walk three times a week. Getting enough sleep is super important because when we sleep, our body resets itself, which helps with all the different functions in our body. Eating healthy is not a popular topic, but it is crucial. We can certainly still have our guilty pleasures like chocolate or some fast food here and there, but eating healthy on a regular basis will make a difference. Along with that, limit your caffeine intake and make sure you drink enough water every day to stay well-hydrated. It’s also important to have social support and to connect with people. When people are stressed or overwhelmed, they often isolate themselves. That’s not helpful. It’s important to go out and have social connections even if you need to schedule time for that.”
“As a clinician, I like to start off by talking about healthy habits, because when you think about something like diabetes or other physical health concerns, we know that there are sub-clinical levels and clinical levels,” says Dr. Robert Ryan, president and CEO of Bowen Center. “If you’re pre-diabetic, your doctor will do things to stop you from becoming diabetic. The same is true with mental illness. You can work on your ability to handle the stress and challenges of life and be able to recognize the symptoms of mental illness. When the demands of life start out-stripping our ability to manage that stress, it needs to be addressed. All of the habits Dr. Liebetrau mentioned are so important. Those things won’t necessarily cure the depression, but it would allow the patient to handle more stress. So, it’s possible to take someone who’s in clinical-level depression and move it back down to sub-clinical and the person can go on with his life without difficulties.”
Dr. Ryan says another idea to combat mental health issues is to give of yourself to others through volunteering.
“When people are dealing with mental illness, they often feel that they have the worst case and that no one else would understand what they’re going through. They have very internal-focused thoughts. But if you took an hour or two each week to volunteer somewhere like a soup kitchen, you get a different perspective on life and see that you’re not the only person who has struggles. It’s like throwing someone with mental health issues a life preserver to get their head above water for a few hours a week.”
Both Dr. Ryan and Dr. Liebetrau emphasize that their suggestions aren’t just their own thoughts on how to handle mental health issues, but are all proven, research-based guidelines.
They also recognize the longtime stigma surrounding mental health and explain how the staff at Bowen Center is taking steps to overcome that.
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with reaching out and asking for help,” says Dr. Liebetrau. “It’s just like anything else in life. If you need help with your taxes, you go to someone who can help you with that. If your child needs help with math, you get them a tutor. Mental health is no different. It would be preposterous if your doctor said you had cancer and you responded by saying, ‘I’m okay. I’m just going to handle it on my own.’ Your brain is part of your body, and your brain needs support and there’s nothing wrong with that. One way to start assessing your mental health is to do an online survey that can help give you a quick assessment. Use a search engine to look up ‘PHQ9,’ which stands for Patient Health Questionnaire and is a 9-question survey.”
“At the Bowen Center, we are promoting the importance of an annual mental health checkup through integrative care,” says Dr. Ryan. “We are establishing primary care health clinics in the area where mental health will be embedded in those clinics. So, somebody who traditionally was not comfortable going to a mental health facility can now go to see a primary care doctor who is well-versed in mental health and can offer help. If the problem warrants it, we have behavioral health experts on staff who can see you right there in the clinic as well. It’s a way for the patient to navigate around the stigma of mental health and we’re excited to start off a new year with this option.”
Phone: (800) 342-5653