Anna Haudenschild Meier is determined to break down the stigma of mental illness. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder in college, Anna knows firsthand the challenges that living with a mental illness can bring.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly 2.3 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which is characterized by shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and concentration, as well as the inability to carry out day-to-day tasks.
For Anna, her first bipolar episode presented when she was studying mechanical engineering at Cornell University.
“It was a very terrifying time for me and my family,” Anna says. “I was taken to a hospital, and thankfully I was able to recover."
There is no single cause of bipolar disorder but with proper diagnosis and treatment, individuals diagnosed with bipolar can lead healthy, active and productive lives, which is exactly what Anna’s recovery reflects.
With the love and support of her family, Anna has been able to live many years in good health. She finished her undergraduate degree at Cornell and went on to earn her master’s in mechanical engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles.
In 2008, Anna experienced a bipolar episode so severe, she did not think she would be able to survive. This time, Anna’s family brought her to Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital, the largest private psychiatric treatment hospital in San Diego County, recognized as a leader in caring for people experiencing behavioral and mental health challenges.
“My parents took me to Sharp Mesa Vista, a hospital designed for me to help me recover from another devastating episode,” Anna says. “I learned how to examine my thoughts, to have compassion for myself, and the importance of meditation. At the time, I was surprised to discover that these were all real tools for mental wellness.”
Anna has thrived in her career, working in aerospace with carbon fiber, and now working in health care with electronic medical records. She has a loving husband and two joyful children. Fortunate and grateful to be alive and well, Anna felt it was time to give back and help others who might be living with challenges similar to her own.
Even though Anna and her family have always supported many charities and foundations, it was the pandemic that really put a spotlight for them on the need to support mental health services.
According to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders, which is up from 1 in 10 adults who reported symptoms prior to the pandemic.
The American Psychiatric Association reports that more than half of all people living with mental illness do not receive help for their condition — often avoiding or delaying treatment due to fear of being treated differently or losing their jobs and livelihoods.
“The stigma around mental illness really paralyzes people to accept themselves and reach out if they need help,” says Anna. “I want people to know that there is a way out.”
Anna understands the importance of having hospitals in the community that specialize in treating mental illness and she recognizes this as a crucial step for others to get on the path to wellness.
“To have a place that understood what I was going through was incredibly validating to me and my struggle,” says Anna. “I am blown away by the caliber of the staff and leadership of Sharp Mesa Vista. They are of the highest level with compassion and dedication.”
Currently, Anna is partnering with the Foundations of Sharp HealthCare as a member of the Sharp Mesa Vista Philanthropy Council to support the Sharp Mesa Vista Behavioral Health Intensive Care Unit (BHICU) Modernization Project. Since opening its doors in 1963, Sharp Mesa Vista has been a source of treatment and support for nearly 200,000 patients and their families. Continually providing a full range of inpatient and outpatient programs for people of all ages who are living with depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other serious mental health conditions, the BHICU is in much need of updates.
The BHICU serves a population of individuals with high risk, serious and chronic mentally illness who require a safe and supervised, all-inclusive physical and mental health inpatient stay. Sharp Mesa Vista BHICU treats approximately 1,000 patients each year, with an average stay of nine days. The project will provide much-needed upgraded spaces for patient therapy, patient-staff consult, inpatient stay and adequate nurses’ station for interdisciplinary collaboration. Construction has already begun and should be completed by spring 2022.
“What makes me so proud and excited about this project,” says Christiana Paul, vice president of Patient Care Continuum at Sharp Mesa Vista, “is that while many other health care organizations are closing their inpatient behavior health facilities, Sharp is looking to enhance and improve our services in this area.”
Most importantly, Christiana notes that this project will provide a beautiful space for patients like Anna and their families to come for compassion and care.
For Anna, the care team at Sharp Mesa Vista gave her more than a place to heal — they gave her the tools to live her fullest life.
“The world-class staff at Sharp Mesa Vista deserve a world-class hospital, and this renovation is an act of advocacy in and of itself that my family and I are grateful to support.”