Everyone feels moody or has “a case of the Mondays” occasionally, but when disruptions in thought or behavior cause someone to lose their ability to cope with normal functions and routines, they may be dealing with a much more serious problem than mere moodiness. Mental health is just as important to a person’s overall health as his or her physical condition, and mental illnesses must be cared for as diligently as any physical illness.
“There is still a stigma associated with mental illness, and it’s been worsened by recent national tragedies,” said Christopher Fogarty, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC, psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner at Mercy Medical Center. “What I tell all my patients is that on a scale of 0 to 100, no one is a 0 on the mental health scale,” Fogarty said. “We all have stressors in our life. We all have differing needs at different points. My goal is to help my patients get through whatever they’re experiencing at that point in time.”
There are more than 200 identified forms of mental illness, the most common of which are depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dementia, and anxiety disorders. Mental illnesses often manifest physically as well as emotionally and psychologically and can be caused by excessive stress, genetics, and/or biochemical imbalances.
Warning signs of a mental illness include:
• Long periods of sadness or irritability
• Feelings of extreme anger
• Extreme emotional highs and lows
• Excessive feelings of fear and anxiety
• Social withdrawal
• Several unexplainable physical complaints
• Substance abuse
• Denial of pronounced issues
• Delusions or hallucinations
• Suicidal thoughts or actions
Many people with mental illnesses do not know how to get help and often go without the services they need. If you suspect a loved one may have a mental health condition, there are several resources available to you. Mental health nurse practitioners, like Fogarty, provide a wide variety of services including cognitive therapy, medication prescription management, counseling, and work alongside their supervising physicians and other care providers to ensure patients have all their care needs met.
“Generally, initial appointments are an hour to ensure I fully understand the patient’s needs,” Fogarty said.
There are also mental health information and referral services available for you to contact:
Emergency Medical Services:Always call 911 for emergency assistance if you believe the situation may be life-threatening.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:Call 1-800-273-8255 www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):Call 1-800-950-6264. The National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, also offers discussion groups and education and support programs for caregivers and family members of those suffering a mental disorder through their website: nami.org.
Do not hesitate to get help for someone you believe may be suffering from a mental health condition. Given proper treatment, many people are able to cope with or even recover from mental illness. A medical or mental health professional can help both you and the person suffering from a mental health condition, and could even help save a life.
Mercy Medical Center Expands Mental Health Services
Get to know mental health nurse practitioner Christopher Fogarty
Christopher Fogarty, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC, psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner provides mental health outpatient care for patients of all ages at his office located at Mercy Health Center of Plain in the Oakwood Square Plaza. Fogarty also provides consultation for Mercy Emergency Department and admitted patients.
“I wanted to go into mental health because it is a population that is both vulnerable and underserved,” Fogarty said. “I believe to be effective in mental health, you have to be good at connecting with people, and I try to understand my patients and their needs wherever they are in their lives.”
Fogarty and his wife Monica have seven children, ranging in age from 13 to 2 years old. He enjoys playing with his children, running and Notre Dame sports. He is also very involved in his parish and said, “I believe in Mercy’s mission, and our focus on serving the community is really important.”
Fogarty is accepting new patients. To make an appointment, please call 330-489-1Doc (1362).