Alicia Elliott, DO, joined the Astera Health family in April 2023. She is working to improve the mental and behavioral health of patients throughout Central Minnesota. Dr. Elliott believes transparency and a non-judgmental care environment are foundational for good mental health. In this debut article for Astera Insights, Dr. Elliott shares information on how new patients can decrease the anxiety of their first meeting with her.
Alicia Elliott: Anxiety and the first meeting
I’ve been with Astera Health for a little over three months and am overwhelmed by the positive reception I’ve received. Co-workers and patients welcomed me with open arms! The interest in my work leaves me pondering many evenings after work. What is mental health? How can we encourage open communication about it? How do we know when we have a problem? I was raised in an urban area, and coming to a rural community was a different experience. I am so glad my family and I made this move. Like many areas in the country, however, mental health remains stigmatized and often pushed to the background. I want to change that and make mental health a priority.
In my appointments, I encounter the initial wave of anxiety. It builds itself in different ways from person to person. Sometimes it’s crossed arms with no eye contact; sometimes, it’s nail-biting; other times, it’s avoidance and the frequent canceling of appointments. I want to help prospective patients with that initial anxiety.
Am I crazy?
Am I crazy? That is a question I hear a lot. It is one of the great anxieties that hold people back from seeking help. We live in a challenging world. For some, every day feels like a problem with no solution. The traumas of life only compound these challenges. Intrusive thoughts and neglected mental health lead us down a road of self-deprecation. We start wondering… “Maybe I really am crazy.” I have never met a crazy person, nor do I see patients as one. I see people who need help. Remember, there are millions of people out there suffering from these issues. You are not alone. Seeking care for mental health takes strength and courage. Many find it can change the trajectory of their life for the better.
Suck it up!
Have you ever been down and out? Maybe you were late on the rent or treated unfairly at work. The world is a challenging place. The last person you need to lessen your concerns is your trusted circle. However, when we talk with our friends and family about our struggles, many hear, “suck it up.” I’ve noticed over the years that many people do not talk about emotions and feelings. Many of those people struggle to describe how they feel and their struggles. Keeping these experiences inside of ourselves leads to more severe challenges down the road. These struggles can cause mental health issues and general medical conditions like increased blood pressure.
I want to encourage talk about mental health and make it part of an average conversation. Life is long; we all need support from time to time. We can all gain something by openly talking about mental health and learning how to support those struggling with it.
Many of my patients’ hesitations and fears about seeking aid with mental health go back to shame and judgment. Some people feel making that appointment labels them as the odd one out. They have concerns others will see them as a loony, a person who can’t take it anymore, someone who may snap and go crazy at any moment. Comparing ourselves to those around us is something we all do. However, we are all on our own unique journey. Like other medical records, what is discussed in the clinic with me remains confidential. Mental health documentation often has additional protection to ensure patient privacy within medical records.
A typical meeting
- Initial meetings, typically called consultations, can be 45 – 60 minutes.
- There will be several questions regarding current symptoms, history of symptoms, relevant social history, and relevant medical history.
- At the end of the consultation, I will review what I feel the diagnosis may be and explain what the conditions can involve and their typical treatment.
- I review medication treatments and discuss various counseling/therapies that could aid the patient.
I hope the above information and insight open the path to a brighter tomorrow. Please don’t suffer in silence. Overcoming anxiety and the first meeting is the first step. Please reach out. It takes courage, poise, and strength to start the journey toward better mental health. For more information about my work and the services of Astera Health, please visit asterahealth.org. Make sure to follow us on social media for important updates.