World experts gather in Lowcountry to discuss mental health

Published: Jul. 28, 2016 at 6:04 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 28, 2016 at 10:24 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Mental health professionals and community leaders from around the world are gathering in downtown Charleston for a discussion on mental health treatment and care.

The fifth annual Lowcountry Mental Health Conference hosted by the Charleston Dorchester Mental Health Center and Mental Health Heroes, seeks to introduce professionals to different forms of treatment through the networking event.

"We wanted to have a conversation about mental health in the communities, because of the stigma about mental health and lack of resources," said David Diana, Director of Communication Education at the Charleston Dorchester Mental Health Center. "Often times people who need help aren't seeking it because of the stigma."

Dr. Jamie Marich, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and trauma expert based out of Ohio, says the amount of trauma involved incidents around the world continues to grow.

"When are people going to get it?" Marich said. "The hate, fear, and nastiness breeds more hate, fear, and nastiness."

During her lecture she cited the tragedies in Florida, Germany, Texas, and even the Charleston area.

"There's so much meanness in this world," Marich said. "I'm not sure if there's anything that can be done on a big level, but at the small level we can. To me part of the anecdote to meanness is kindness, part of the solution to meanness is kindness, is love, is healing, and that's what we as therapists are empowered to be able to teach."

Marich added the solution to dealing with feelings like this is to change them into something else. She feels it can be done through 'mindfulness'.

"So much of the nastiness is that, it's about reaction as opposed to response," she said. "Mindfulness is really about teaching the people the art about responding to stress instead of reacting to it."

"It's about being present with your client in session rather than trying to focus too much on technique or doing the right thing or saying the right thing," said Tessa Trask, a therapist. "It's about just being there."

In the last few weeks the world has seen multiple tragic events.

"How do we help people?" Diana said. "How do we address some of these issues in society that we feel like we're ignoring and just seem to be escalating. We're just trying to see what we can do to help."

Mental health experts say when trying to figure out if a loved one is experiencing trauma you need to notice if they are acting differently.

"One of the worst things in that situation that you can say is 'you just need to get over it because it's in the past'," Marich said. "At the level of the brain, it (the trauma) may still be stuck in the area of the brain that has no rational cognizant sense of time."

"I think now, more than ever, is the time we need to take the trauma informed approaches seriously," Trask added.

Professionals say the individual has to understand what they are going through as well.

"After everything you've experienced, it's no wonder you've been affected," Marich said. "It's no wonder you have symptoms. I love you for it, I validate, I acknowledge what happened, there's nothing wrong with you, however now there's something that needs to be done about it."

More than 900 leading experts like Marich will share their work and ideas over the two-day conference at The Gaillard Performance Center.

In addition, there was a live performance from The Charleston Mother Emanuel A.M.E. and Charleston Area Justice Ministry choirs Thursday.

Diana said the way the Charleston community has dealt with tragedy stands out.

"It's amazing how all of the different entities, and people have come together to support one another," he said. "Mental health being one of those aspects, the trauma being associated with some of the tragedies we've experienced here. It's been great to be able to have that conversation here."

One of the methods of treatment that's being used in the Charleston area looks at the cooperation between faith based communities and clinical communities.

Diana believes the performance by the AME and Justice Ministry choirs will showcase how spiritual healing is helping the Charleston community.

Friday speakers at the conference will discuss treatment for children with emotional and behavioral challenges.

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