New Hampshire hospitals tackle stigma of mental health

Depression
Having a “common language” keeps staff on the same page when they interact with patients who may be at risk for behavioral health concerns.

Patients with mental health concerns often seek help in the emergency room, but not all providers know how to recognize the signs of mental illness. Hospitals in New Hampshire have spearheaded a campaign designed to better train staff to identify patients at risk for behavioral health issues.

The Campaign to Change Direction was built as a public health approach to change the stigma around mental health, according to an article from Hospitals & Health Networks. The campaign was created by Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D., a child psychologist and the founder and president of Give an Hour.

Earlier this year, New Hampshire became the first state to join this national initiative. Hospitals in the state, both individually and as members of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, have driven much of the campaign’s growth since then. Its main focus is to train hospital staff—and those who work for outside public health agencies and other organizations—to recognize five signs of mental illness:

  • Personality changes
  • Agitation
  • Withdrawal
  • Decline in personal care
  • Hopelessness

Having a “common language” keeps staff on the same page when they interact with patients who may be at risk for behavioral health concerns, according to the article.

“I am very proud of what is happening in New Hampshire, where so many organizations have stepped forward to sponsor and help,” Van Dahlen told the publication. “This truly is a collective effort in changing the culture of mental health in New Hampshire.”

The campaign has expanded into Summit County, Ohio, according to its website, and its leaders seek to continue to drive expansion in the future.