Psych professionals host Q-and-A during Mental Health Awareness week at Whitworth

by Amanda Larkins

During last week’s Mental Health Awareness Week, several mental health professionals gave an informal Q-and-A session, March 11 in the Robinson Teaching Theatre. Around 60 students were in attendance at the event, as the speakers answered questions related to the treatment of people with mental illness and the challenges of working in the mental health field.

Restoring Hope, the club that put on the event, aims to break down stigmas and stereotypes that are often associated with mental illness.

Ursula Heflick spoke first at the Q-and-A. She holds a chemical dependency certificate and works as a social worker for the Carlyle Care Center, an assisted living facility that serves individuals with chronic mental illness, developmental disabilities and substance abuse issues.

“I chose to go into the field of mental health care because I wanted to have direct contact in as many people’s lives as possible,” Heflick said.

Culture and large groups have a bigger impact on the individual than many people are led to believe, Heflick said.

“You can only help a person so much; at some point they have to help themselves,” Heflick said. “If you are doing more work than your client, you are doing too much.”

Dr. Mark Baird, clinical psychologist and visiting professor of psychology spoke about his work. Baird’s work experience in the psychiatric field ranges from high school, college, hospital, outpatient clinics, American soldiers in Iraq and geriatric services. He now runs a private practice. Baird said he works mainly with individuals who have trauma issues originating from depression and anxiety.

Individuals seek out his services “when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change,” Baird said.

Baird said that using “radical compassion” was needed to break the stigma surrounding mental illness. He advised students to spend time with individuals with mental illness in order to grow together as a campus community, he said.

Following Baird, pediatric psychologist Dr. Kevin Heid took the podium. He covered “mental hygiene” for individuals, which included maintaining spiritual needs, physical needs, community, intellectual environment and good economics, were essential for students who wanted to go into any psychiatric-based career.

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