William Garcia’s (name changed) son has suffered from bipolar disorder for 20 years. He and his late wife didn’t want to admit their son had a mental disorder, but as he continued to lock himself in the bathroom, shouting for hours at a time, they accepted something was very wrong.
“He checked himself into a mental health facility for the first time 15 years ago. He’s been back a handful of times since. It always comes down to taking his medication,” Garcia says. “It works for him and when he takes it, he’s a good husband, parent, and successful college graduate and retail employee. But if he stops, he becomes angry and starts fights. He’ll say I don’t love him and not talk to me for months. It’s taken me a long time to learn how to deal with him when he’s in a bipolar episode.”
Bipolar disorder falls on the spectrum of behavioral health issues that also includes depression, anxiety, psychosis and substance abuse. Across the country, millions of people experience these issues, with that number growing each year. In San Diego the problem is just as pervasive, with 1 in 4 individuals suffering and many more friends and family affected.
As behavioral health issues grow, so do visits to local ERs; in 2014, the emergency department at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center saw more than 2,000 patients whose primary diagnosis was psychosis.
“These issues can be frightening and isolating,” says Dr. Lynn Welling, chief medical officer and an emergency doctor at Sharp Chula Vista. “Many times, what patients truly need is not a trip to the ER, but rather services like counseling in their community. While it’s our mission to care for every patient who walks through our doors, it’s our goal to connect patients with the help and support they need.”
That’s why Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center partnered with more than 40 local agencies, offering the first ever South County Behavioral Resource Fair in 2016. There will be workshop topics on adult, child and adolescent behavioral health and substance abuse, as well as cognitive and depression screenings.
“We identified a need in the South Bay community,” says Mary Cruz, program manager of community relations at Sharp Chula Vista. “It’s our hope that in bringing together many different organizations — all trying to solve a similar problem — patients and their loved ones will benefit from better care and a brighter tomorrow.”
“As parents and family, we must not give up on our family members afflicted with this illness, but encourage them to listen to their doctor and take their medication faithfully. That has been the key for my son,” Garcia adds.
If you or someone you know needs help, learn more and join Sharp Chula Vista at Chula Vista High School on Saturday, May 14.
For the media: To talk with a Sharp expert about the behavioral health fair for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story was updated in May 2017.