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Community News
MH Professionals Helped on Her Successful Ride
Psychiatric News
Volume 46 Number 10 page 16-16
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Jockey Sylvia Harris: "We all have setbacks and obstacles. But don't give up on your dreams and goals."

Credit: Four Footed Fotos

Although Sylvia Harris gets the credit for her remarkable successes as a professional jockey (see Jockey Rides to Victory in Bipolar Disorder Stakes), some people in the mental health field helped Harris achieve the recovery that allowed her to ride to victory.

For example, there is the staff of the Backstretch Employee Assistance Program at Delaware Park, where she has worked as a jockey since June 2010. Most racetracks have some kind of employee assistance program, but Delaware Park's is really exceptional, Harris said. As soon as she joined the program, she was connected with a community mental health program and was able to use it "without paying a dime."

The program staff also told her that if she wanted to work at Delaware Park, she would have to take psychotropic medications for her bipolar disorder on a regular basis and attend their one-on-one counseling sessions as well as group-therapy sessions to address her alcohol, substance abuse, and anger-management issues. She did so. "I will always appreciate the backbone that the program's psychologist, Wesley Jones, and his colleagues have given me, as well as the boundaries they taught me to set," she said.

Moreover, the program provides Harris with excellent health insurance. It covers her visits to a psychiatrist of her choice and her psychotropic medications.

While Harris said that she has had some unpleasant experiences with mental health professionals over the years, there is one psychiatrist she particularly liked. It is Anita Everett, M.D., who treated Harris at a community mental health clinic near Staunton, Va., in 1996.

"She was the most compassionate doctor I have ever been around," Harris recalled. "She listened and included my younger son in sessions and healing. And when I was doing pretty well on a particular medication, yet it was burning my stomach, she said, —€˜Why don't we back off a bit and change the dosage and see if that helps?—€™ She cared. I know she cared for everybody else the same way she cared for me. She made a difference in my life. That is when I started trusting the mental health system."

In 1999, Everett was appointed inspector general of Virginia's public mental health system. Today she is director of community and general psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins Bayview campus in Baltimore (Psychiatric News, November 19, 2010) and chair of the APA Council on Healthcare Systems and Financing. 16_2.inline-graphic-1.gif

Anchor for JumpAnchor for Jump

Jockey Sylvia Harris: "We all have setbacks and obstacles. But don't give up on your dreams and goals."

Credit: Four Footed Fotos

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