Cynthia Persily, PhD, RN, FAAN
Dr. Persily is the CEO of Highland Hospital in Charleston, WV
“We are not here to curse the darkness; we are here to light a candle”— I saw this quote from John F. Kennedy posted on Facebook earlier this week, and I couldn’t help but think not only how fitting it is for this season of light, but also for our work at the Highland companies in Charleston. In the case of mental illness, our goals as treatment providers include lighting many candles. Let me explain.
First, one of our main goals is to decrease the stigma associated with mental illness treatment, and to assure that everyone who needs care knows that we are here to help. We must light a candle to show how important access to mental health treatment is…and one of the most important messages that we can provide is how easy it is to access our care. I am surprised by the numbers of people who do not know that if they feel that they or a loved one have an acute need for mental health treatment, for instance if they are threatening to hurt someone else or themselves, that no referral is needed to access our care at Highland Hospital.
They can walk into our hospital, and our caring staff will assess them and develop the best plan of care—whether it is admission to our hospital or outpatient care. As I tell this to people who may be in need, it’s as if a load has been lifted off of their shoulders–most of us can only imagine how dark it must be to not know where to get help when needed.
Another important candle for us to light is for our clients. Many times hopelessness and helplessness pervade their lives and that of their families—and they may indeed “curse the darkness”. Our treatment and our caring providers can help to light a light for patients and their families at their lowest times—showing them that recovery is possible, and that treatment does make a difference.
Finally, we must light a light for our community. As the only inpatient psychiatric treatment facility for children, adolescents, AND adults in Charleston, we have a responsibility to provide services that are high quality, based in the most current evidence, and compassionate. We also have a responsibility to develop programs that meet the needs of our community, and we do. We work every day to assure that we are a beacon of hope in our community—that we shine a light in times of darkness.
So, during this week and next, as we gather with our family and friends and light our candles and our trees, I hope that we also keep in mind that we are here to light a candle for our patients, their families and our community each day—and we will be here for years to come.