Pittsburgh-based behavioral health provider Cristina Panaccione is part of our Quartet community. For Mental Health Month, we’ve asked Cristina to share her perspective on the challenges stemming from mental health and the need for a care team to support those who are suffering:
As a mental health professional, my wish is that people would open up their hearts to one another and truly lean on each other in times of suffering, no matter how big or small. There is no shame in asking for help and I have seen lives improve right before my eyes. In my experience, I have seen entire families change just from one person coming into my office and learning effective coping strategies. They take that home, lead by example, and suddenly the family is communicating better, arguing less, and then setting an example for others. It is rewarding to see.
Mental health professionals have a responsibility that I feel is pivotal to breaking down walls. If we present ourselves as open, caring, and trustworthy individuals, and treat every case we see with empathy and understanding, people will be less afraid to approach us on their path to wellness. I have made that my mission with my practice and have found seven other wonderful therapists who feel just as strongly as I do that the people we work with are not just conditions, but people who, like us, have suffered loss, have friends and family they love, and have dreams and aspirations.
Mental Health Month is so very important to help remove the stigma associated with mental health conditions. Due to there being very few outward symptoms of mental health, it oftentimes gets dismissed or pushed aside. I hear patients say, “I should be able to handle this!”; “I know better than to worry!”; “I need to just stop crying, drinking, gambling, fighting, lying…” and the list goes on. What really disappoints me is when patients miss opportunities to seek care – to change their lives! We all go through ups and downs in life and it is so much easier to do it with support.
We are all at risk for mental health issues. We all go through life experiences that can shake us to our core or reinforce our resilience. Without increasing awareness and taking non-judgmental stances, people will continue to get lost in the shuffle and suffer in silence. I am strongly encouraged by companies, like Quartet, who are leading the charge with bringing psychological wellness to the forefront. Let’s all make the most out of not just this month, but every day to spread awareness, remove stigma, and support each other on this journey.