To be mentally healthy | Guest viewpoint

Posted 5/17/23

The ability to cope in an effective manner with what life places at your feet largely defines your mental and behavioral wellness.

In 2023 mental health became a topic of priority for our very …

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To be mentally healthy | Guest viewpoint


The ability to cope in an effective manner with what life places at your feet largely defines your mental and behavioral wellness.

In 2023 mental health became a topic of priority for our very stressed society. This has been a long time coming in the eyes of mental health care practitioners. For years, the topics of mental health, psychiatric care, and substance use treatment has been quietly, (and generally, politely) pushed under the proverbial rug. 

One of the few gifts that the coronavirus gave us was a jarring wake-up call regarding our ability to adapt when our schedules, support systems, access to care, and perceptions of safety were drastically altered. The outcome of the pandemic (among many other things) produced a mental health crisis involving layers of distress for individuals from a kaleidoscope of different social and economic origins. This distress and resulting impact on daily functioning filled up any space left under the “rug,” thus spilling out and becoming significant to public awareness.

During the pandemic, many people that perceived themselves as mentally healthy experienced crippling anxiety and depression. For others who were already struggling with daily life, the pandemic triggered a catastrophic behavioral crisis. Substance use escalated and our teenagers suffered dramatically. Requests for behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment services increased substantially and have continued to do so.

Mental health disorders and substance use disorders are complex and multifactorial, manifested by behaviors that are unique to each individual. The uniqueness is attributed to a layering of genetics, risk factors, medical issues, and traumas that interact together to alter a person’s ability to interact with their environments. Because of this high degree of variability in each person’s experience, treatment becomes highly tailored. Treatment is rarely a one visit fix.

The overreaching message is that everyone struggles at some point in their lives with mental health and/or substance use disorder issues. Predisposing factors can make it more or less difficult to cope with life stressors, therefore worsening or stabilizing a person’s behavioral health. 

For one person self-help material may help considerably to restore confidence and optimal functioning. For another, individual counseling may be needed to discover effective coping behaviors and understand where unhealthy behaviors originated.  Medication can be of great assistance when symptoms are manifested as a result of altered brain function. For our most disabled, a structured combination of medication, counseling, and substance use disorder treatment may be necessary.

Services are available and should be accessed when your coping toolbox is ineffective or simply doesn’t exist. If your functioning in daily life is declining due to stress or unhealthy behaviors, it is time to access assistance. Help is available. If there is a life-threatening emergency, please call 911. You can reach out to your primary care provider. Crisis services are available 24/7 to everyone. The Crisis Line phone is 1-888-910-0416.

Crisis and emergency services are available on a walk-in basis from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays (excluding holidays). Discovery Behavioral Healthcare’s address is 884 West Park Ave., Port Townsend.

If you are not in crisis but want to seek mental health treatment or substance use disorder treatment services, reach out to friends, family and other service providers who can help connect you to appropriate organizations. You may also contact Discovery Behavioral Healthcare at 360-385-0321 for assistance.

Take steps to take care of yourself. Mental health matters.

(Kathryn Henley is chief medical officer for Discovery Behavioral Healthcare.)