EDWARDSVILLE — A mental health professional from Commonwealth Health will present a lecture this week as a way of educating fellow industry pros and members of the public on how to deal with individuals with metal health issues.
“Supporting Patients in Crisis: The Best (and Worst) Things to Say” will be presented by Bonnie Bawiec at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Thomas P. Saxton Medical Pavilion on Northampton Street.
Baweic will discuss how behavior, word choices and strategies used by medical professionals, including nurses, social workers and licensed counselors, can affect the behavior and mental processes of patients.
A graduate of Wilkes University in psychology and a certified life coach, Bawiec is the assistant supervisor of the Crisis Response and Recovery Center at General Hospital in Wilkes-Barre.
There, Bawiec holds group therapy sessions for patients dealing with anxiety, depression and all manners of mental health conditions.
“Major depression can cause a difference in eating and sleeping patterns and loss of motivation, whether that affects work, showing up for appointments or participating in social situations,” Bawiec said.
Bawiec has worked with patients who suffer from panic attacks, suicidal ideation, incapability of completing daily life functions, and, in severe cases, psychosis or schizoaffective disorder, which can be characterized by hallucinations or delusions.
“People can call or walk in and talk to us, and we can help them deal with social stressers and suggest services that are available to them,” Bawiec said.
Bawiec said crises can occur often among patients who are within three months of a life-changing event, such as a divorce, a death or employment loss.
“We try to give people perspective and options to deal with their situation,” Bawiec said. “It is the only (unit of its kind) in the area, and we are available 24/7.”
Bawiec noted the CRRC takes referrals directly from the help line for people in crisis situations.
And dealing with those crisis situations will be the primary focus of Bawiec’s lecture.
The author of “The Mind’s Toobox,” a workbook to aid treatment for people with metal health diagnoses, said most people don’t know how to talk to patients in crisis scenarios.
“One common phrase we use when a patient is upset or raising their voice is ‘calm down,’” Bawiec said. “This is not helpful terminology and could cause more agitation for the patient.”
Bawiec said patients with mental health conditions often don’t know how to calm down, so a professional’s job is to help them understand how to do so by providing guidance. The technique she employs is called mirrored behavior, where a caregiver engages a patient and the two act together.
“We say, ‘Let’s take a step back for a minute and take a breath,’” Bawiec said. “And I’m going to do that with you.”
During her lecture, Bawiec will give interactive examples of why and how mirrored behavior works and how approaches as simple as deep breathing can help a situation. She also intends to educate people on how difficult it can be for a patient to break a coping pattern.
“When we ask a patient to try something new, we have to realize that it’s going to take time and practice, especially when we’re talking about the expression of feeling and fears,” Bawiec said.
According to Bawiec, her upcoming lecture can serve health staff in all fields but can also be helpful to police officers, caretakers and even people who work in occupations that expose them to the public, like retail clerks.
“We’re here to care for the patient but also to teach people to look past the behavior,” Bawiec said. “When someone is in crises, they are at their lowest point. We want to ask, ‘How can I help them up?’”