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Depression Center Seeks To End Shame, Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness

By Pamela Sosnowski

Even though we still don't have the answers to many issues related to mental health, with the help of evidence-based research, we are much more knowledgeable about possible causes and treatments. The University of Michigan Depression Center (UMDC) of Ann Arbor is hoping to stop the shame and stigma of psychiatric disorders while providing a supportive environment for its patients.

"One in five Americans deals with a mental health issue at some point in their life," says the center's Associate Director, Dr. Michelle Riba. "It is very common. Understanding this fact is the best place for the public to start. Mental health issues are common and treatable and there should be no shame in getting help. Having a brain illness is just like having a physical illness, yet people seem to be more reluctant to seek help for issues that you cannot see."

The UMDC's mission is to detect and diagnose depression and bi-polar disorders early, thus treating them more effectively, offer support to patients and family members, and help prevent recurrences. The staff also works to educate the public about mental illness and improve public policy so that access to treatment is more accessible. As the center is part of the University of Michigan Health System, an emphasis is also put on researching what causes psychiatric illnesses.

UMDC is housed in the Rachel Upjohn building on the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus, and was opened in 2006. The first floor is comprised of psychiatry clinics and outpatient treatment rooms for children, adolescents, and adults including those suffering from substance abuse. The second floor is reserved for the research and includes a sleep and chronophysiology lab to conduct overnight sleep studies.

Besides treating depression, bi-polar, sleep disorders, and substance abuse, the center also provides services to military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and their families. The center works with M-SPAN (Military Support Programs and Networks) to provide programs to vets such as Buddy-to-Buddy, which connects veterans with others that have served to provide friendship and support and HomeFront Strong, a resilience-based program for vets and their partners.

Dr. Riba says that early intervention is key to a successful recovery process from depression and that a loved one can play a role in it. "One can encourage a friend or loved one to seek help by telling them that (it) is the first step to recovering and living a healthy lifestyle," says Dr. Riba. "It can begin by just asking them how they are doing, and eventually it might mean encouraging them to visit a professional therapist. Talking about your issues out loud with a friend or expert can be very helpful and add valuable perspective.

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About The Author

Pamela Sosnowski is a freelance writer, social media manager, contributor for REBEAT...

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