Elisha Ross, 31, is one of the nearly 47 million people in the United States suffering from a mental illness. However, she is rising above her borderline personality disorder and bipolar diagnoses to pursue a career as a poet, while doing all she can to help fight the stigma of mental illness.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in 25 adults in the United States experiences a serious mental illness annually. This illness can substantially interfere with or limit one or more major life activities.

During the days leading to Elisha’s May 2019 hospitalization, she recalls feeling an overwhelming sense of anxiety and hopelessness. She knew she needed help immediately and sought care at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center’s (SGMC) Emergency Department. After receiving a mental health assessment, Elisha was admitted to the hospital’s Montgomery Unit.

The Montgomery Unit provides treatment for adults with mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder. Treatment consists of medication management, intensive psychotherapy and developing coping skills and expressive therapies, such as art, journaling and playing music.

Elisha credits the Montgomery Unit staff with helping her develop the coping skills she uses every day to manage her mental health.

“The staff helped reignite my love of writing and poetry,” Elisha said. “They encouraged me to use writing as an emotional outlet to help me express what I’m feeling in a healthy way.”

According to Jason Martin, director of clinical services at SGMC’s Behavioral Health Services, the department’s “goal in inpatient treatment is to help patients understand their psychological triggers and develop coping skills to maintain mental wellness after they are discharged.”

Since her discharge from inpatient treatment, Elisha has been receiving outpatient mental health support from SGMC’s Outpatient Wellness Clinic. Through therapy, she continues to build on the progress she made and has set goals for her future. She has established herself as a poet, sharing her work with audiences at local venues.

Elisha also is working to establish a non-profit group aimed at helping children cope with emotions and distress through art, photography and dance.  

“I want to share my story with others to help change the way people think about mental health and help others who are diagnosed,” Elisha said. “I want people to know that managing mental illness is a journey. I work hard every day to stay mentally healthy by using my coping skills, getting support from my therapist and taking medication.”

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