Innovative mental health clinic opens
A private mental health clinic set up to offer physical treatment like rock climbing and paddle boarding alongside traditional therapies has opened up.
Atlantis Psychiatry offers assessment, diagnosis and treatment for a variety of disorders as well as physical therapies, called experiential therapies, which can be helpful for people who do not respond as well to other treatments.
The service has joined forces with wellness centre Solstice, which provides a range of evidence-based therapies.
Grant Farquhar, consultant psychiatrist at Atlantis, said experiential therapy can help people who suffer from a range of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Dr Farquhar explained: “Experiential therapies are an established form of therapy that can be beneficial for a number of conditions and they can also be used as just wellness as well as an activity. It is open to everybody.
“We are doing rock climbing and paddle boarding in the harbour or on the beach and, through Solstice, it is equine therapy.”
Dr Farquhar added: “It takes people out of their comfort zone, putting them in a situation where they are forced to act in a situation they are not used to being in and then using that as a tool to help them to understand their own personality and way of approaching things.
“It is also about problem solving and putting people in anxiety provoking situations and helping them to control that and de-escalate their anxiety.
“In a climbing situation it is obvious what the source of the fear is but in someone who has an anxiety disorder they may feel anxious without there being an obvious provocation so it’s about putting them in a situation where not only have they got the anxiety but there is an obvious source for it, so it’s about using that as a tool to help them to recognise it and to manage it.”
Dr Farquhar, who has more 20 years of clinical experience in psychiatry, has worked in a variety of areas, including prisons, hospitals, outpatient clinics and in the community.
Dr Laura Henagulph, clinical psychologist at Atlantis, which is based on Hamilton’s Reid Street, said: “In Bermuda where stigma exists, people often suffer with very frightening symptoms which they keep secret.
“If they don’t tell anyone about them and these things worsen and it ends up with them having to go into tertiary care — bypassing primary and secondary services.
“The Mid Atlantic Wellness Institute is a fantastic service but when you are very, very ill and you have lost touch with reality, the admission process itself can be very traumatic.
“I guess what we might want to do is to encourage everybody to seek help earlier so it doesn’t get to the point where they have to go straight to tertiary care.”
Dr Henagulph, a specialist in individual therapy for attachment disorders and relationship difficulties, has worked with organisations including the Department of Child and Family Services and the Department of Corrections.
She also has experience as an expert witness in criminal and civil courts.
Dr Henagulph said: “We would encourage anyone experiencing distressing symptoms to come forward and talk to someone about it no matter how shaming it seems.
“Our mission at Atlantis is to break down the stigma around the more severe end of mental illness — severe interpersonal issues — because there are treatments available and people do get better.
“If you need help in that area it is imperative you go to an expert and you can start working on some of those issues before they start becoming severe or you start feeling isolated. It can become a terrible cycle where people just shut down.”
Atlantis has expertise in cognitive disorders and serious mental illness as well as personality disorders, neuro-developmental disorders and drug and alcohol misuse.
It also offers liaison services and advice to its clients, including clinical and court reports, forensic risk assessment and management and treatment strategies.
For more information about Atlantis visit www.atlantis.bm or call 533-3325 or 533-3326