Depression 1

Part I of II

October 2014
By T.L. Grace West

Part of living on an island means tuning into the weather and to each other.

There is a longstanding history of neighbors helping each other not only through physical storms, but also through emotional struggles such as depression and/or addiction.

Major depression affects one out of six adults, and one out of 10 mothers develop post-partum depression needing professional intervention.

That means that out of about 1,000 people living on Ocracoke, about 166 of us need some extra help with depression.

As winter approaches more people tend to suffer from depression.

Diagnostically, if people have five of the major depression symptoms over a two-week period, or the symptoms interfere with your life, they can benefit from reaching out for help. For more information about the symptoms of depression see Global Medical information,
Diagnostically, if you have 5 of the following symptoms over a 2 week period, or the symptoms interfere with your life, you are likely to benefit from reaching out for help:

Feeling sad, crying more than usual
Major changes in appetite or sleep patterns
Uncharacteristic irritability, anger
Worries, anxieties
Pessimism, feelings of failure
Loss of energy, libido
Unexplained physical aches and pains
Hopelessness, guilt
Inability to concentrate or make decisions
Inability to carry out personal hygiene (showering, brushing teeth, etc.)
Lack of enjoyment in things formerly enjoyed
No desire to socialize
Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

Life-controlling problems are addiction, which can run the gamut from drugs and alcohol, to gambling, sex, eating disorders, and even smoking.

There is no shame in asking for help during stormy times in our lives.

Who can we turn to when a listening ear of a friend is not enough, or when we want strict confidentiality about our problems?

Ocracoke has some resources.
Traditional medicine
Each of the following resources is ethically and professionally committed to patient confidentiality (unless you are a danger to yourself or to another person).

The Ocracoke Health Center (OHC), 252-928-1511, on Back Road supports many services including mental and emotional health care. The center accepts Medicare and many private insurance plans.

For the uninsured or underinsured the OHC has the Medical Value Plan program to help reduce costs based on income and family size.  The OHC partners with East Carolina Behavioral Health to provide services for mental illness, substance abuse, and/or developmental disabilities regardless of insurance coverage. Thanks to state funding, all services (including interpretive services for languages other than English, including sign language) can be free or low cost, said Leza Wainwright, CEO.

For depression and/or substance abuse needs, anyone can call the crisis number at 877-685-2415.
ECBH contracts with the following three organizations who also will help with funding when needed.
RHA Health Services (, 252-638-9091, is a state-wide, non-profit organization that provides behavioral health services.  RHA serves Ocracoke Island via tele-psychiatry once or twice a month and by appointment for both depression and/or substance abuse. Patients meet with a licensed clinician via a secure computer line at the health center for an assessment and follow-up services, said Debra Vuocolo, vice-president of operations.

Vidant Behavioral Health provides a psychiatrist on Ocracoke one day a month primarily for medication management.

In September, another licensed social worker began providing therapy an additional day each month, said Janet Joyner, practice manager.  Call Vidant at 252-975-8853, or 252-946-3666 for an appointment.

Integrated Family Services’ Mobile Crisis Management ( has an emergency number to call for both mental health and substance abuse problems.

“The goal of Mobile Crisis is to prevent unnecessary hospitalizations and incarcerations, provide crisis services in a least restrictive setting, such as in homes and to assist individuals in developing a crisis plan to prevent future crises,” said Mona Townes, director.

In a crisis situation, a qualified mental health professional will be dispatched with the goal of reaching a person within two hours, though this would take longer for a clinician from Nags Head or Belhaven to arrive on Ocracoke. Call the IFS’s hotline 24 hours a day at 866-437-1821.

Emergency Medical Service (911) is another county-run emergency resource.

Assessment, basic treatment and transportation to the Outer Banks Hospital in Nags Head is provided for and billed by Hyde County.

Terrilynn Grace West can be reached at





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