Jenny Viney presents the Mental Health: What if we Talk About It discussion at Stoughton Hospital

Jenny Viney, a registered psychiatric nurse from Mercy Hospital in Janesville, leads a discussion on mental health at Stoughton Hospital. She brought personal experience into the conversation when talking about her mental state after her child was born.

Jenny Viney wants to make sure people recognize mental health “is a component of everything we do.”

“Mental health is a part of overall health,” Viney, a registered psychiatric nurse from Mercy Hospital in Janesville, said.

Viney was the speaker during Stoughton Hospital’s program titled “Mental Health: What If We Talk About It.” Created in partnership with the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation and GrapeVine, the program was designed to spark conversations with the community on mental health.

The goal of the Aug. 22 discussion was to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health challenges, Viney said. Although the discussion was geared toward women, anyone was welcome to attend.

“We often go without seeking treatment, even though mental health disorders are the leading cause of disability,” Viney said. One in five people are affected by a mental health disorder, but Viney thinks that number is on the low end.

As she spoke, attendees viewed a slide listing different types of mental health disorders in order from most common to least common: anxiety disorders, depression, substance use disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), borderline personality disorder (BPD), eating disorders, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), schizophrenia.

Historically there are many stigmas surrounding mental wellness, Viney said, and people are often uncomfortable and would rather talk about nearly anything else.

“We used to hide people in institutions saying there was something morally wrong with them,” she explained.

Even nurses are often more comfortable asking about a patient’s bowel movements and sexual history rather than asking about mental health, she said, mostly because they are afraid of the answer.

When asked if there has been a reduction in stigma in recent years, Viney said yes and no.

“We don’t have enough services and facilities for mental health,” she said. “If everyone who needed it asked for help at one time, we would have a health crisis.”

However, asking someone how their mental health is or if they have thought about taking their life seems to be a faux pas, said Viney. During this discussion, the seven people in the audience asked questions to learn more, like “what do I do if I know someone is depressed?” and “how can I help?” They also said technology gives them anxiety and shared ways they take care of their mental health, such as avoiding social media, walking their dogs and talking to family members.

This discussion was also meant to inspire and empower people to be an advocate for their own mental well being and the mental health of others, Viney said.

“Maybe someone will use this tomorrow, maybe they won’t. But it is a chance to empower people in my community to save lives and make a difference,” she said.

Contact Mackenzie at mackenzie.krumme@wcinet.com.