Veteran stands taller thanks to VA mental health treatment

Bay Pines VA program gets struggling Veterans back on their feet


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“I was crashing and burning—in a downward spiral—broken,” recalls Coast Guard Veteran Stewart Taylor. Then he began mental health treatment at Bay Pines VA Healthcare System.

Taylor had struggled for years with bipolar affective disorder (BAD). BAD is marked by extreme mood swings that can interfere with normal day-to-day life. He was using drugs to cope with his illness and on his way to “living alone by the railroad tracks” when he was admitted to the Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center (PRRC) at Bay Pines.

The PRRC is an outpatient program that supports patients by helping them connect with their local communities in personally meaningful ways. As a condition of joining the program, each patient must have a specific goal to work towards. As the patient achieves their goal, their mental health symptoms can decrease significantly and in some cases go away entirely, according to PRRC psychiatrist Dr. Matthew Knisely.

Standing Taller

“Our patients make enormous changes in their lives,” says Knisely. “We’ve helped Veterans who were so unwell they could barely leave their homes. We are approaching mental health care in innovative ways that are long overdue.”

Taylor recently graduated from the PRRC program after two years of treatment. Over that time, he became more optimistic and hopeful. Medication controlled his BAD. He discovered insights into his complicated past and started to develop higher self-esteem.

A former co-worker recently told Taylor he looks happy and is standing taller than he had been before.

A painting by PRRC patient Constance Legrys.

Successful graduates

Knisely says that during its eight years of operation, the PRRC has graduated many Veterans with similar success stories. The treatment team includes doctors, nurses, social workers and licensed mental health counselors. There are also Veteran peer specialists who have successfully overcome their own mental health problems.

“Each person gets to really use their strengths in their position, which leads to the best patient care,” says Chrissy Agenor, the program’s nurse manager.

As for Taylor, he plans to move forward in his life with newfound health and peace of mind.


Story and photos courtesy the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System Public Affairs Office.

Read more:

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

VA mental health therapy in your living room

Same Day Mental Health services for Veterans

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

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Comments

  1. S W    

    What a load of hogwash. The VA talks out of both sides of it’s mouth at the same time and only doles out little “success stories” like this to make vets believe the lies. Or maybe some of all that money going to Bay Pines needs to be redirected to Maine where VA is sorely lacking in mental health providers. Up in Maine if a mental health provider is hired they are so overloaded with patients they quit after a few months because of the drain and stress it places on them. Guess what, vets are left without sufficient mental health care. if the vet is lucky enough to be assigned to another provider that person then gets pulled to do administrative work for half their hours. So now they can only see vets Half as often as they used to or feel they should see them.
    The VA in Maine has very few licensed providers, ie, doctors in psychology. Psychiatrists don’t count, all they do is push pills on vets, they don’t actually counsel anyone. When is Maine going to actually hire mental health providers to deal with the suicide “crisis”? It should not be up to other vets or civilians without a doctor’s training to “help” vets in crisis. Tell me, do you really think that Joe Blow actually knows the signs of a suicide if any are given? Really?? Then maybe Joe Blow should be paid the over $100,000 a real doctor would get. Oh sorry, I was forgetting, the director up in Maine isn’t authorized to pay that much to anyone. Guess that’s why no one is being hired.

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