All posts by Stefanie Silvers

Break the Stigma Event Aims to Educate Health Care Professionals

break the stigma

On Monday, October 7, St. Petersburg College’s Health Education Center, in partnership with National University of Health Sciences (NUHS), Barry University, and SPC Human Resources, held their second annual Break the Stigma event. 

The event made multiple resources available to the HEC community for their well-being, such as yoga, massage chairs, Chai tea and SPC resources to assist with mental health such as NAMI, EAP, SAP, Suncoast Center, and PEMHS. 

Trauma-Informed Care

A Lunch and Learn presentation coincided with the resources in the community room. Since stigma is most often what prevents individuals from seeking the care and treatment they need to address mental illness, the goal of the presentation was to educate our future health care providers to treat mental illness like any other chronic health disease. Other subjects addressed were compassion, satisfaction, trauma-informed care and PTSD.

Dr. Jessica Keith was the first presenter. She holds a doctorate from Columbia University and, for over ten years, has provided care for veterans with the Department of Veterans Affairs. She currently serves as lead psychologist on the Bay Pines in-patient psychiatry unit. 

Dr. Keith’s presentation started with trauma-informed care, since trauma is not uncommon, and most likely, allied health professionals will be working with a patient who has experienced some form of trauma.  She suggested universal precautions, since we do not always know who has experienced trauma, which can have an impact on someone physically, cognitively and emotionally. She provided us with a working definition of practicing trauma-informed care and specific strategies. Next, she discussed compassion fatigue and burnout. In a national survey, 54 physicians had at least one symptom of burnout. She ended her presentation with self-care strategies, defining social support and ways to maintain “compassion satisfaction.” 

First Responder Burnout

Ken Grimes was the second presenter. He has almost forty years of experience in Emergency Medical Services. Grimes, who has spoken internationally on disaster response, was part of the Command Staff for the Air Medical Branch for multiple hurricanes: Katrina, Dean, Gustav, Ike, Irma, Maria, Florence and Michael.

Grimes shared his story, starting at age 16 as a volunteer firefighter in 1979. He worked his way up to being a flight paramedic for Bayflight for over 10 years. He described so eloquently how he went into this field to help others, but then realized that he was with the people he was caring for at their most horrific time. In time, this can take a toll – suicide rates among first-responders are one of the highest.  After returning from his role as lead medical transport during the hurricanes of 2017, he had a moment of realization that he needed help and was willing to seek it. Part of his journey of posttraumatic growth is sharing his story with others, including other first responders, by presenting and publishing his first book, Tin Box Voyeurs, in 2020.  

SPC Hopes to Break The Stigma

break the stigma

On Monday, October 15, visitors to St. Petersburg College’s Caruth Health Education Center were treated to some love in the form of yoga, massage chairs and yummy chai. The event, hosted by the HEC, the National University of Health Sciences (NUHS), and Barry University, was SPC’s first “Break the Stigma” event.

break the stigmaAt Break the Stigma, multiple resources for well-being were made available to the HEC community. In addition to yoga, massage and tea, community mental health resources were on hand, including NAMI, Suncoast, and PEMHS.

Most often, the stigma attached to mental illness is what prevents individuals from seeking the care and treatment they need. NAMI’s StigmaFree campaign was used to get SPC’s Health Sciences and Veterinary Technology community to commit to eliminating the stigma associated with mental health.

A Lunch and Learn presentation coincided with the resources in the community room. The goal of the presentation was educating our future health care providers so they will treat mental illness like any other chronic health disease.

Dr. Robert L. Arnold – known as Dr. Bob – was the first presenter. He holds a doctorate in Counseling Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Professional School Psychology. He is a noted national speaker and adjunct professor at the Barry University College of Medicine and the National University of Health Sciences.

Dr. Bob’s presentation started with NAMI’s most recent statistics on mental health: “One out of five American adults will experience mental illness, and nearly one out of 25 American adults live with a serious mental illness”. His focus was addressing the stigma which first starts with the language we use and our attitudes towards mental illness in turn how we treat people with mental illness.

Justin Shea, a student in the Public Policy and Administration program as well as the public address announcer at SPC, was the second presenter. Shea works full-time as the Cultural Facilities Events Supervisor for a local municipality in Pinellas County and as a Board Member for NAMI Pinellas.

Shea shared his journey with mental illness, starting with being diagnosed at age 19. He described in detail how simple everyday tasks become a full time job. He stated that he felt worthless; that his life did not matter, and he isolated in the darkness of a beautiful day. By the age of 20, he was labeled disabled. In 2004, Justin discovered Vincent House, which is a voluntary club model for people with mental illness. He said that at first he would just attend, but with the patience and encouragement of a Vincent House worker, he started working on simple tasks. Then he started to work on vocational skills, leading to working part-time. He later upgraded to full-time work and successfully transitioned off disability benefits with the help and coaching of the Vincent House model. He still lives with mental illness, but with support, treatment, and his employment, he is a successful advocate for others living with mental illness.

Hopefully, this event was successful in encouraging people to face mental illness and seek treatment without fear of attached stigma.

Mental Fatigue Among Animal Caregivers Addressed

mental fatigue

Dr. Dani McVety is the co-founder of Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice, and she often sees animals and their human friends in dark times – when a pet is nearing the end of it’s life. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, St. Petersburg College’s Veterinary Nursing program, along with the Student Government Association and Accessibility Services, sponsored a lunch and learn event Monday, October 8 that featured Dr. McVety, who spoke on the challenges of being a pet hospice provider and the mental fatigue that can ensue.

One big topic Dr. McVety addressed was about different ways that pet care providers can become emotionally distressed. According to McVety, ethical fatigue, which is often associated with difficulties in understanding or accepting a pet owner’s medical decisions – many times specifically related to euthanasia, is a challenge that involves moral issues that can cause physical and even mental distress as well as burnout.

Dr. McVety, who only practices end of life care, spoke about the difficulties of accepting pet owner’s decisions in deciding when is ‘the right time,’ especially when care givers do not have insights into what pet owners are facing in their lives. She stressed that the commitment veterinary professionals make is to consider the pet’s quality of life and prevent or stop suffering, and to provide a quality of death, so that a pet’s passing is one that is peaceful and compassionate.

Physical and mental health awareness is of particular interest to SPC’s veterinary nursing students because mental health is a significant concern for the veterinary profession. There is a high suicide rate, identified as “twice that of the dental professionals, more than twice that of the medical profession, and four times the rate in the general population. (Stoewen, 2015, p. 89). This high rate of depression and suicide is often associated with the role veterinary professionals have in performing euthanasia.