On World Mental Health Day, doctors remind Baltimore that mental illness is just like any other illness

Johns Hopkins offers easily accessible mental health help

Published in Community Health - Community Health Stories

Oct. 10 is World Mental Health Day, and Bernadette Cullen, M.D., M.B.B.Ch., director of the Johns Hopkins Community Psychiatry Program, wants to remind the community that mental illness is an illness just like any other.

“You would get treatment for any other illness, like diabetes, so why not mental health?” says Cullen. “We shouldn’t think of it differently than any other medical illness.”

According to Mental Health America’s 2019 “The State of Mental Health in America” report, more than 44 million American adults (18.07% of the population) have a mental health condition. One in six U.S. children age 2 to 8 (17.4%) have a diagnosed mental, behavioral or developmental disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For people struggling to manage stress, or whose family or friends have expressed concern, Cullen suggests a visit to the Johns Hopkins general outpatient clinic in Meyer 144. People can self-refer by calling Patient Access Services. A screening appointment will be scheduled, and the patient will see both a psychiatrist and a therapist.

Cullen praises the process because patients can be “screened on the day they’re there, and they get to see a psychiatrist for a complete evaluation within the next two weeks. We triage who needs the appointment soonest.”

For children, psychiatry and behavioral sciences instructor Hal Kronsberg, M.D., recommends the expanded School-Based Mental Health Program.

“It’s about the easiest mental health program to access that I can imagine,” Kronsberg says.

Run by Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, the program is available at 30 Southeast Baltimore City public schools. Therapists work closely with school and city staff to provide individual, family and group counseling, as well as crisis intervention for children and families. The team can make referrals for testing and further treatment. 

Kronsberg says children can reach out for help themselves, or their parents or teachers can refer them. Children must be covered by Maryland Medicaid.

“We see hundreds of kids,” Kronsberg says. “With how difficult it is for kids to get to appointments, this is great because it allows us to meet them where they are. They don’t have to worry about missing school or getting transportation.”

“We want them to know they’re not alone and there is help,” Cullen says.

For screening appointments at the outpatient clinic, call 410-955-5000 or 855-695-4872 (outside Maryland).

For more information about the expanded School-Based Mental Health Program, call program manager Annastasia Kezar at 410-550-1035 or ask your school administrators if there is a therapist working in your child’s school.

Need immediate assistance? Call the Baltimore Crisis Response hotline at 410-433-5175. It is available 24 hours per day, seven days per week.