Ross, 31, is one of the nearly 47 million people in the United States dealing with a mental illness. However, she is rising above her borderline personality disorder and bipolar diagnosis to pursue a career as a poet and help increase understanding of mental illness.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 25 adults in the United States experiences a serious mental illness each year. Of Maryland’s 6 million residents, an estimated 175,000 live with a mental health problem. These illnesses can substantially interfere with or limit major life activities. Signs that may indicate mental illness can include:

  • Feelings of sadness and hopelessness lasting two weeks or longer
  • Changes in sleeping and eating habits
  • Withdrawal from friends and family

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 and sought care at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center’s Emergency Department. After completing a mental health assessment, Elisha was admitted to the hospital’s Montgomery Unit.

What Help is Available?

The unit provides treatment for adults with mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder. The program of care includes intensive psychotherapy, medication management and skill development, as well as expressive therapies, such as journaling, art and music.

Elisha credits the Montgomery Unit team with helping her develop the 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 Marissa Leslie, MD, chair of the department of psychiatry, Shady Grove’s Behavioral Health Services, the hospital’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.”

A Creative Renewal

Since her discharge from inpatient treatment, Elisha has been receiving additional support from Shady Grove’s Outpatient Wellness Clinic. Through therapy, she continues to build on the progress she made and has set goals for her future. And she has achieved one of her primary goals already as she has established herself as a poet and shares her work with audiences at local venues.

Elisha also is working to establish a nonprofit group aimed at helping children channel their emotions and distress into 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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