If you are suffering from depression or anxiety, there is a new mental health specialist working at the Bitterroot Physicians Clinic in Hamilton next to the Emergency Room services at Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital. Sarah Gabriel is a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner and Certified Emergency Nurse.
Gabriel went to nursing school in Cleveland, Ohio and then worked as a travelling nurse mostly in the emergency department and intensive care units in at various hospitals in Colorado and Nevada.
“It was in the emergency department that I saw a great potential for advancements in psychiatric and behavioral health care,” said Gabriel.
What she saw in emergency rooms, she said, was that people would come in obviously suffering from some sort of mental problems but ERs are generally not staffed, nor do they have the space, to handle someone in a psychiatric crisis. She said some suicidal patients or someone suffering from severe depression would have to wait weeks as doctors looked for somewhere to place them.
That’s when she decided to shift gears and put herself on a fast track to becoming a mental health specialist. “I just wanted to give back to a population that is under served,” she said. “ERs are not a good environment for someone in a mental health crisis. It’s generally hectic and noisy.”
Gabriel is not doing psychotherapy but she is prescribing medications that can help people manage their depression or anxiety.
Gabriel said that depression and anxiety problems can be difficult to identify even by the person suffering from them. Symptoms may include such things as loss of interest in things in general, sleep problems (either getting too much or not enough) or eating problems, either eating too much or eating too little. All can be signs of depression. Irritability and lack of concentration are also on that list.
But all of these can be confused with other things that are associated with simple aging.
Gabriel said that mental issues like depression and anxiety can lead to physical problems as well.
“Chronic depression depletes neuro-transmitters and can lead to neurological breakdown.
Depression can also, and often does, lead to some sort of addiction problem as well.
As Gabriel was completing her advanced psychiatric education at University of Nevada at Reno, she also worked for two years in the Northern Nevada correctional facility with inmates who were diagnosed with serious mental health issues.
“Over 50% of inmates have a high degree of substance abuse and many have severe mental health issues,” said Gabriel. “That experience quickly prepared me for my career as a psychiatric mental health nurse.”
Her goal was to complete her advanced degree, with experience, and relocate to a rural community where she could make a difference and live a healthy lifestyle.
At one point a friend of hers told her that western Montana was a great place. She looked into it and saw an advertisement for the position at the clinic in Hamilton and – here she is. She has been at it for over a month and half now.
“I chose beautiful Montana because of my love for the outdoors; skiing, snowmobiling, and biking,” she said. She has also been practicing martial arts for the last twenty years including Muay Thai Boxing and Jujitsu.
Gabriel said that she is dedicated to providing her clients with personalized and holistic treatments based on evidence and trauma informed care that will help them and their families gain control of their mental and behavioral health problems so they can live a more meaningful life.
She accepts referrals from anyone’s medical provider. Call 363-1100.