Meet a Neuroscientist and Get a Second Healthcare Opinion

Meet a Neuroscientist and Get a Second Healthcare Opinion

The Bipolar Burble is honored to introduce to you Dr. Marie Rowland, a neuroscientist helping people with brain disorders like mental illness through a new service, EmpowermentAlly.

A Special Offer for Bipolar Burble Readers

Marie is offering subsidized services to people with a mental illness and she has a special offer for Bipolar Burble readers – a thorough review of your mental health concerns, history and a 30 minute coaching session all for $15. Read on to learn more about Marie and her offer.

Tell us more about your history and why you decided to get into the mental health field.

I was a troubled kid many years ago because my family was falling apart. I was diagnosed with depression and had a year of therapy, antidepressants, and hospitals. I still wince when I think about the humiliations the psychiatrist and the staff at the hospital put me through.

I avoided anything to do with mental health for a long time after that. But in my late twenties, I took night class in biological psychology, just on a whim. This was a different perspective—how problems were caused by disorder in the brain, not by behavior. I was hooked. I went back to school and didn’t stop until I had a doctorate in clinical neuroscience. People thought I was nuts—this formerly troubled teen foster child who no one thought would get anywhere, going back to school for an advanced science degree.

Meeting Mental Illness in the Flesh

I was managing a website for people with a brain injury and writing books about depression and anxiety, when I met my current boyfriend. He was a successful lawyer going through a divorce—a stressful life, but he was managing. And then he was hit with one major life crisis after another. He had struggled with depression before, but this was different. It was too much at once. He couldn’t cope.[push]I knew all about brain disorders, I had done research with patients, but none of that prepared me for dealing with mental illness in the flesh. Living with someone with mental illness was a completely different kind of education.[/push]

I had no idea how bad it was until he called one day because he couldn’t get out of bed. He was in and out of hospitals. He was going to therapy almost every day. He was on one medication after another. His doctors couldn’t agree whether he had bipolar disorder, depression, or PTSD. And he started drinking. It was absolute chaos.

It took several months to get things under control. He had decent doctors, but it took a long time to get him organized and stabilized. We knew he wasn’t the only one who had these struggles, and we decided to work together to do something about it.

Wanting to Right Mental Health Treatment Wrongs – Mental Health Patient Empowerment

Mental Health Care Consulting About the BrainThe idea of patient empowerment resonated with what we wanted to do. But when you’re struggling with a disorder like anxiety, depression, or PTSD, it’s difficult to stand up for yourself and get answers to your questions. If you have memory and concentration problems, you might not even remember what to ask. You run the risk of misdiagnosis, inappropriate medications, or insufficient follow-up.

We thought the best way to help people was to show them how to become empowered patients, by showing people how to manage medications, how to get the right diagnosis, or how to start a claim for disability benefits. We thought it was important to provide personal coaching, looking at medical history, symptoms, and medications, to try to find the nut of the problem and some potential solutions.

What is your approach to looking at mental health?

Take, for instance, organizing medications. From the science perspective, I know what to expect—what a drug does to the brain, what kind of side effects might occur, how drugs might interact. But from personal experience, I know that medication labels are confusing, putting together a weekly pill box is not as easy as it looks, and the wrong medication at the wrong time can cause some major problems.

So all of that can come together into practical education—how to organize your medication so that it’s most effective, how to ask your doctor about alternatives, what you need to understand about what the drugs are doing.

What do you think is missing the process of mental health treatment? How can you improve this?

Good communication is a big problem in mental health care. Even with the doctors we love and respect, there can still be a lot of unconscious looking down upon and bullying that is mistaken for authority. It happens too often that people with mental health issues are considered less capable or less intelligent. Mental health patients often find that they don’t have much of a voice in their own care.

Well it may be true that people with brain issues have a harder time organizing or remembering everything they need to talk about. It’s true that a person who suffers from anxiety can easily clam up in front of an authority figure, or that a person with depression might not have enough motivation to talk in detail about symptoms. That doesn’t make a person less intelligent, it just means that their mental resources are currently in limited supply. The doctor needs to provide extra time and patience for this person but a doctor like that is hard to come by.

What mental health care service do you provide?

Brain Health Consultants EmpowermentAllySo that’s what we provide through EmpowermentAlly—extra time and patience. I think the most important thing we do is coach people to be ready for a doctor’s appointment—making sure they have a list of important symptoms going in, using the vocabulary that the doctor needs to hear, knowing exactly what questions need to be asked. Better communication. No more wasted doctor’s appointments.

What do your services cost? How are you funding your services?

We’ve quickly learned that the people who need our services the most were also the most likely to have financial difficulties. We had to find a way to subsidize the service so it was either free, or very inexpensive.

We can do this by attracting investors and professional listings, or possibly becoming a non-profit (or a hybrid). But that will take some time, and in order to help people right now, we’re holding a crowdfunding campaign. People who pledge will not only get mental health coaching in return; they will also help raise awareness of the need for the service.

A Special Offer for Bipolar Burble Readers

EmpowermentAlly on FundableSo, if Bipolar Burble readers are in need of personal health coaching, we are offering a special pledge reward. For $15, you can fill out a health questionnaire; we’ll review it and give you 30 minutes of health coaching by phone or email. We’ve gotten people through crises, helped with diagnosis problems, talked about medications, put together goals and plans, and we’ve also just listened as needed.

Pledge here on the Fundable website. The special pledge is under Bipolar Burble Readers. You have until October 16 to pledge, but you can use the service at any time.

Full disclosure: Marie and I have worked together. I like her a lot and think for $15 you shouldn’t miss this opportunity to work with her. Also, I make nothing from this offer.

Image attribution: Dale Mahalko – Banner image of CT scan

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