Community Voices: 68 years of caring, healing hearts, and changing lives at GMHC

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Photo by Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

By Marci DeWolf and Dr. Al C. Edwards

In honor of nationwide efforts to combat mental illness, the Greenville Mental Health Center marks 68 years of support and caring for the Greenville community. Last year, a dedicated and talented staff of 160, plus 24 interns, touched the lives of 5,500 patients.

The center is a strong and vibrant part of the Greenville community. It’s been providing outpatient services to those battling addiction, depression, abuse, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar, and other disorders since it opened its doors in 1950. The center, one of the largest of its kind in South Carolina, is part of the State Department of Mental Health.

Our goal is to help people of all ages triumph over their adversities by equipping them to re-enter society as fully functioning and contributing members.

The GMHC is a national leader in community-based mental health services. It offers several innovative initiatives aimed at meeting the needs of an expanding population.

YOUTH

Chris Haines organizes the therapeutic summer day program for youth who swim, hike, visit local parks, and get out in the community.

“The best thing we can do is to teach them how to manage their emotions so they can build the necessary social skills to be successful in life,” Haines said. A total of 580 middle and high school students typically benefit from the program.

Haines also leads the school mental health program. Greenville County and the center have worked together to create one of the most expansive and progressive mental health partnerships in the nation. Resource counselors are in 49 county schools.

HOMELESS

The center provides services to the homeless who are diagnosed with serious mental illness. Staff reaches out to those living outside or in a shelter.

ART THERAPY

The Art of Recovery program enables patients to create, display, and sell their own work. It showcases their talents and illustrates the role that art can play in the recovery process. Their handiwork can be seen at the center and at the annual Spoleto Festival in Charleston.

“Displaying their own work promotes the clients’ sense of well-being and enhances self-esteem,” said John Lorance, board-certified art therapist.

Unlike those with a visible infirmity, such as a broken leg or blindness, mental illness may rob a person of the ability to reason, to discern fantasy over reality. The mentally ill are often the poorest of our neighbors. They often live in tent cities at a cost of poor and dangerous conditions. They may lack a personal doctor and end up in the ER or jail. Equally devastating are those who are disowned by their families.

Medications and therapies are on hand for treatment options, and we have seen impressive results. But more work needs to be done, such as improving access to health care, educating doctors, and motivating politicians. Drug abuse is increasing; childhood suicide is climbing; and the jails are full.

Astonishingly, 50 to 60 percent of those with a mental illness received no help last year.

The vast majority of those suffering are not violent or dangerous but are people wanting the same dignity and respect that we do.

Nearly 175 years ago, Dorothea Dix led a “revolution” to ensure humane treatment of the mentally ill. Some buildings and wards of South Carolina state hospitals still bear her name.

It is in the public interest to foster and maintain a healthy society for all people. Delayed treatment costs everyone. If one group is suffering from untreated conditions, then eventually that suffering will boomerang to the rest of us.

The GMHC has given hope and healing to thousands of members of the Greenville community. There are many success stories.

The center is located at 124 Mallard St. near Greenville’s West End. Reach us at 864-241-1040, or visit greenvillementalhealth.com.


Marci DeWolf is in her second term on the board of directors of the Greenville Mental Health Center. She previously served on the Florida State Board of Mental Health, Clinical Social Work, and Family Therapy.

Al C. Edwards, M.D., is the current director of the Greenville Mental Health Center, former associate director of William S. Hall Psychiatric Institute, former chief of forensic psychiatry of the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, former third-year curriculum coordinator at USC School of Medicine, and the former state director of mental health services for South Carolina Department of Corrections.

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