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More than half the population will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime, according to the CDC. There is also a shortage of mental healthcare professionals so doctors and students sat the Medical College of Georgia are working to bridge the gap between those seeking treatment and those providing it.
Psychiatry resident Dr. Norah Essali looked for a free mental health clinic where she could volunteer ad she found resources in our community, but she says she did not find a free clinic dedicated specifically to mental health so she decided to start one.
“The population in Augusta that’s uninsured or under-insured has really limited access to mental health services,” Dr. Essali says.
The free mental health clinic starts Thursday April 25th from 6-8PM and will continue on the final Thursday of each month. The clinic will be held at The Stoney Building on MCG’s Health Sciences campus located at 997 St Sebastian Way.
Medical students will help run the clinic while an attending Psychiatrist oversees residents like Dr. Essali as they conduct evaluations.
“It’s just going back and forth about questions we would have in our minds what criteria is for what different disorders like depression or anxiety. We’d be asking the patient questions to see if they experience symptoms that would meet that criteria and we just kind of go through the interview to see what disorders they might meet criteria for and see what the appropriate treatment for that is,” Dr. Essali explains.
Often, the right treatment includes medication so they are fundraising to help patients cover that cost as well.
“Because we’re a free clinic we don’t have enough funds currently, which is why we are fundraising for that. One of our psychiatry attendings here Dr. Rosenquist is playing a benefit concert for us,” Dr. Essali says.
Medical students like Emily Moore are working on the fundraising efforts and will help run the clinic.
“I have always been really interested in mental health because it’s kind of like the less tangible side of medicine and i think that because of that it can sometimes be hard to seek treatment for it, find treatment for it,” Moore says.
For many, mental health treatment seems like a luxury they cannot afford or access. These young doctors and future doctors are trying to change that.
“For something as common as depression for example, treatment is life saving,” Dr. Essali points out. “If you have depression and you’re struggling with it everyday, your quality of life is affected, but then you know of course if it continues to worsen and it’s not treated then it will lead to things like thoughts about suicide, or actual attempts of suicide or completed suicide so treatment for mental health illness is life saving.”
The free mental health clinic is for those who uninsured or under-insured and at or below 200% of the federal poverty line. They will accept walk ins at their first clinic this Thursday.