Become a F.O.R.C.E
It’s as old as human nature… but like a contagious disease, STIGMA can spread like wildfire; turning neighbors against each other, and devastating the most vulnerable members of the community.
At a time when we’re considerably more enlightened about bipolar disorder, depression and substance abuse, the stigma against people dealing with those issues persists like a holdover from the Dark Ages.
The effects can be easy to spot… discrimination in employment, housing, or financial situations… or they can be much more subtle, and just as damaging.
Either way, stigma can result in poor quality of life, low self-esteem, and a sense that the stigmatized person somehow deserves being shunned by their peers. Fortunately, research indicates that people who are informed about addiction or mental illness, and who have known someone who’s dealt with these issues, are far less likely to stigmatize those who need help.
Carrier Clinic® has been fighting against stigma by educating the community…but we can’t do it without the public’s help. While all of us have the power to strike a blow against prejudice and ignorance, it takes more than just “feeling sorry” for people to help them escape the stigma. Instead, be a F.O.R.C.E. for positive change. Carrier Clinic® offers 5 ways to combat the stigma of mental illness and addiction for Positive Change
FACILITATE. Reach out to someone who can use a helping hand; share your knowledge of the resources (medical, psychological, counseling) that are available to them. Support initiatives in your community, as we work together to promote a conversation on addiction, depression, and recovery.
ORIGINATE. Positive action can begin with a one-on-one show of support, to a person who could benefit from your assistance in making a necessary appointment, furnishing transportation, staying by their side, and letting them know that there’s someone who believes in them. Then be proactive by lobbying public officials for legislation designed to fight the negative effects of stigma.
RELATE. Recognize the rights and the basic dignity of the person, be sensitive to changes in their behavior, and be respectful in the ways you communicate with them. Practice patience, and know that even a person who resists help can find that path to recovery and happiness.
COMMUNICATE. When someone with a mental health or addiction issue shares their story, a sympathetic, non-judgmental ear is best. Real communication begins with listening, not lecturing—it brings hope and encouragement to others who have shared their struggles.
EDUCATE. Many government agencies, universities and nonprofit organizations offer accurate and easy-to-understand information designed to push back against stigma. Social media and digital communication allow all to share stories and speak against false information.
Compassionate Care Has a New Home
It began on the morning of May 21, 2014, when Donald J. Parker, plunging a gold shovel into the earth, broke ground on an ambitious $21 million renovation and expansion project.
It became a reality on October 13, 2015, when the Carrier CEO and President, now brandishing an oversized pair of scissors, cut the ceremonial ribbon and welcomed a group of dignitaries to view the results of “the most aggressive building plan in Carrier’s 105 year history.”
Representing a significant investment in Carrier’s brick-and-mortar facilities, support infrastructure, and people-powered services, the project is not so much a culmination as it is a new beginning.
Affecting nearly 50,000 sq.ft. of the Belle Mead campus, the project spotlights three main points of expansion and renovation: the Admissions Center, the Acute Care Unit facility, and the Blake Recovery Center™. Together with numerous behind-the-scenes improvements, they comprise what Parker describes as a “Compassionate Campus;” a place where a tradition of professional care meets new thinking in environmental consciousness, aesthetics, and healing.
Over 200 guests joined Parker and board chairman Thomas Amato at the ceremony. In attendance was Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, who shared a story of how Carrier helped a friend’s daughter on the path to recovery. Joining her were Senator Christopher Bateman, Assemblyman Jack M. Ciattarelli, and Assemblywoman Donna Simon, whose speech called for making mental health issues as much a part of the conversation as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer.
Also present were members of the Somerset County Board of Freeholders, Montgomery Mayor Christie Madrid, and directors from the NJ Hospital Association, the NJ Department of Human Services, the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, and the NJ Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies.
Showcased on the tour was a 5,781 square foot Admissions Center, newly expanded to streamline the patient access process and provide a comfortable experience for the more than 6,000 New Jersey residents who seek treatment at Carrier each year. In addition, the two all-new Acute Care wings provide a therapeutic setting for patients in crisis—and the 8,000 sq.ft. expansion of the Blake Recovery Center™ represents the first major upgrade since its founding in 1981.
Visitors were impressed by the attention toward providing a more therapeutic environment; an initiative that draws upon the natural beauty of the Sourland Mountains and surrounding countryside with new larger windows, and broad-spectrum interior lighting to recreate the benefits of natural sunlight. An effort to recognize Carrier’s rich heritage saw some 8,000 bricks from former buildings repurposed for a new front sign, around the fishpond and for other brick accents around the campus. Six of the trees cut down during construction will be made into carvings to celebrate Carrier’s work with adolescents, and a celebrated “Windows Project” transformed 100- year old windows from the old buildings into beautiful works of art.
A closer inspection reveals a switch to LED lighting, as well as new boilers, refurbished cooling towers, and a shift from oil to natural gas. An IT upgrade and electronic medical records system aim to increase efficiency, while an ongoing commitment to solar power reduces environmental impact.
Equally important is an expanded range of treatment programs organized around themes of spirituality, pain management, medication education, and relapse prevention.
A renewed dedication to the Healing Arts Initiative recognizes that Carrier’s mission of “expert treatment, education, compassionate care, and outstanding service” is supported through such treatments as art, music, movement, and equine therapy.
“Finding effective, individualized solutions to mental health challenges requires facilities which embody healing properties through design, color, art, light and furnishings, and a staff who has compassion and talent to guide complex journeys to recovery,” added Parker, who took time to thank the architects, builders, referral agents and staff involved in the successful expansion.
As a respected regional facility for the treatment of behavioral health and addiction disorders, Carrier Clinic® has long been in the vanguard of what were once considered “non-traditional” therapies. Having taken an early lead in the use of alternative therapies within a clinical setting, the Carrier team prepared to share its observations with their professional peers—and, on a morning in September 2015, a distinguished audience heard President and CEO Donald Parker declare that “the imagination is an important part of treatment.”
For Parker and his colleagues, the conference on The Healing Science of Art, hosted at Carrier Clinic®, was a chance to demonstrate how Carrier’s physical environment has been re-imagined to “maximize the therapeutic value of nature and art,” and how traditional clinical treatment programs are enhanced by a focus on recovery through creative expression.
Parker introduced professional music therapist Crista Orefice, whose work at Carrier has achieved breakthrough results with patients who were previously considered challenging. Explaining that “music helps the brain rewire itself,” Orefice emphasized that clients need not display any musical skill to benefit from the therapy; sharing instances in which socially withdrawn people became much more engaged and enthusiastic after participating in group sessions.
Kenneth Kinter of Ancora Psychiatric Hospital and Rutgers University discussed the concept of “treatment malls;” programs through which hospitals offer a variety of rehabilitative and social activities for patients to choose from (such as music and meditation), with proven success.
The conference’s special guest speaker was Dr. Jeremy Nobel of the Harvard School of Public Health; an internationally renowned advocate who established the Foundation for Art and Healing. Encouraging his audience to participate in a haiku writing exercise, the published poet explained that “creative expression helps prepare us to deal with challenges and solve problems,” and detailed several ways in which such expression—not only art projects, but recreational hobbies and other hands-on activities—enhances social communication and emotional health.
Conference attendees were treated to a close-up look at the power of art in action, as members of the Arts Council of Princeton were on site for an outdoor live-paint session. Part of Carrier’s “Windows Project” (in which salvaged antique windows from renovated buildings were repurposed as unique works of art to be displayed around the campus), the “Paint-Out” saw several Council creatives “take a window and make art” in the spirit of the Princeton group’s Spring Arts Festivals.
Respected organizations in the field of arts-related therapy have reported the benefits of incorporating music and visual art into a program of clinical treatment, with results that have ranged from reduced levels of anxiety and improved social skills, to increased memory capacity and even a reduction in pain. Through a belief in the value of art therapy, and a mission to share that commitment with the public, Carrier Clinic® continues to explore a new frontier in Healing that begins at the crossroads of Science and Art.
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