Making mental health matter during may

Mental health clinics are celebrating the successes of their staffs and clients
PHOTO: Expanding a mind. On display now at the Laurens Mental Health Clinic and at the SC Department of Mental Health is artwork by a Laurens County client who has found her voice through art. “It pushed her out of her comfort zone,” said Camilla Bravo, Laurens Mental Health Clinic director. “She told us, ‘I don’t even go to the grocery store. (Through art) I learned to break free.’” - Photo by Vic MacDonald

On Monday, Laurens Mental Health Clinic became the first clinic in the seven-county Beckman Center region to honor its clients with a recovery drop-in.

Each of the seven clinics is conducting a drop-in during May, designated nationally as Mental Health Month, to bring awareness to the broad range of needs of people dealing with mental illness.

Laurens Clinic Director Camilla Bravo also made a presentation Monday night to the Beckman Center board, meeting in Greenwood, about the local clinic’s programs. One of the Laurens clinic’s success stories is a client whose art is now on display - and has been sold - at the South Carolina Department of Mental Health’s Columbia headquarters.

“She told us, ‘(Through art) I learned to break free, to be in the world and in my own skin,” Bravo said of the client-artist, now a commercially successful painter.

Arts in all its forms is becoming a new vista for helping people with mental illnesses. Bravo said music therapy is an up-and-coming area for these clients. “They are learning you do not just express yourself in words. Many do not realize they have a talent or skill that they can get out on paper, without having to verbalize.”

The Laurens Mental Health Clinic has three clinicians for adults, eight child and adolescence counselors and a supervisor, and two positions (one filled) based at the Laurens County Memorial Hospital emergency room. Bravo said she is seeking a counselor who can work in LC4, a physician’s office based in the hospital. 

The clinic also has access to tele-psychology, which can connect clients and counselors with a trained psychiatrist at any time. “We can tap into the psychiatrist, mental health counselors and ER doctors and get all bases covered before we put someone in the hospital.”

People in need of mental illness help can call the Crisis Line, the clinic’s phone number at off-office hours to be connected to the counselor on duty at night. Group therapy also is available.

“It’s universality,” Bravo said. “We get people together with the same diagnoses. They realize they are all in the same situation. Universality kicks in and clients realize other people have the same thoughts they have. Peers work together to gain the (coping) tools they need. The counselor acts as the facilitator.”

Bravo said she is proud of the inter-agency collaboration in Laurens County. Agencies send representatives to meet together once a month to find common ground for programs. The Laurens Clinic and Gateway substances abuse center have conducted joined training sessions for their staffs. Bravo also has liaisons in Districts 56 and 55 to work with principals and school-based counselors dealing with mental health issues in teens and younger students.

All this and more ties into May as an awareness month for mental health issues. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) defines mental illness as: attention deficient disorder, anxiety disorders, autism, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression, dissociative disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia; related conditions: anosognosia, dual diagnosis, psychosis, self-harm, sleep disorders and suicide.

Through Monday’s reception at the Laurens clinic, and other receptions upcoming throughout the Beckman region, Bravo said, “We want to let our clients know, we recognize them as individuals.”


(Laurens MHC is at 442 Professional Park Rd., Clinton, SC 29325, located behind the Laurens County Memorial Hospital, phone 864-938-0912; fax 864-938-0926; hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Tuesday, 8:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.)


Beckman Mental Health Center encompasses Abbeville, Edgefield, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick, Newberry and Saluda counties.

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