Breaking the Silence

by Madeleine Maccar | May 16, 2024
Breaking the Silence
With May ushering in Mental Health Awareness Month, the region’s experts in the field of mental wellness are doing their part to shatter misconceptions, provide vital education and ensure that none of their neighbors suffer alone.

And while it’s OK to not be OK, everyone deserves to be the best, happiest versions of themselves. Whether that means seeking help to overcome one of life’s inevitable but ultimately temporary low points or figuring out how to manage a long-term diagnosis, South Jersey residents have access to not only a variety of solutions but also an abundance of compassionate care providers who understand how crucial it is to treat the individual, identify the root cause of their challenges and address how their condition uniquely manifests itself.

In fact, with the advent of Mental Health Awareness Month, some of the area’s experts in all matters of mental wellness have embraced the opportunity to keep chipping away at undeserved stigmas, correcting mental health misconceptions and promoting community education to ensure that their neighbors know help is both close at hand and readily available to them—though those efforts are certainly more of a year-round mission than a one-month undertaking.

At Acenda Integrated Health, Senior Vice President of Integrated Health Bridget DeFiccio, LPC, affirms that while she has seen “movement from awareness to acceptance, we still need to be aware that it’s not at 100%.” And with new demographics indicating an unprecedented need for professional intervention especially as peak COVID’s emotional aftermath is still being examined and understood, it’s imperative to reach those most at risk before it’s too late.

“I believe our youth and young adults have been mostly negatively impacted over the past few years,” DeFiccio continues, pointing out that school- and college-age individuals have absorbed “an incredible shift” in both their personal and academic lives that has brought with it a wave of consequences. “We are seeing a rise in youth/adolescent and young-adult suicide attempts and completions. Youth between the ages of 10-24 account for 15% of all suicides—suicide is the second leading cause of death for this age group, and suicide risk is higher among youth who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual.”

Dr. Alican Dalkilic, a board-certified psychiatrist at Depression Doctors & TMS Program, and his colleagues have witnessed a similar rise in mental-health crises among certain groups, particularly “college-educated individuals.” And while destigmatizing the necessity of both addressing and seeking treatment for one’s emotional needs is the ultimate goal of a month dedicated to mental-health awareness, making help more accessible overall benefits everyone, not just those presently in turmoil. 

“Because we specialize in difficult-to-treat depression, what we’ve noticed is that health care providers have started to come to us for second opinions, medication management opinions and also treatments,” he says, adding that the practice’s cutting-edge offerings—a noninvasive procedure called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and Spravato, the nasal-spray form of Esketamine—are gaining in popularity as their success rates become common knowledge.

“We offer what is basically a free screening: Our team members go through a screening questionnaire to see if a patient qualifies for TMS or Spravato because those are very specialized. … If anyone still has questions, then I do offer a free 10-minute phone call answering their questions, and talk about their struggle regarding depression and treatment options,” says Dalkilic.

Meeting the multiple emotional needs of a diverse region requires a plurality of specialties and practitioners. And while it is promising for the patient population to have more individualized services and a wealth of resources available to them as it becomes less taboo to discuss mental wellness, DeFiccio says there is “an incredible shortage of mental health therapists, case managers, advanced practice nurses, psychiatrists—basically, all mental health and recovery providers” able to satisfy that demand. It is “a nationwide, perhaps even a worldwide, issue” that will have to be addressed sooner rather than later.

But DeFiccio also notes that critical dearth of professionals has led to some innovative and impactful solutions as the mental health field continues to emphasize that “we need to be aware that mental wellness and mental health looks different and is different for every single person [because] everyone has a different level of resiliency and mental well-being.” That’s why Acenda offers a comprehensive suite of care including all-ages crisis services, outpatient counseling, clinical and prevention services in schools, and substance-recovery counseling.

“Many clinical providers now desire to work solely through telehealth: Given the shortage of providers, this becomes the only option at times. Some data shows that up to 80% of individuals want and are happy to receive services through telehealth; however, some services need to be delivered face to face. This will continue to be a challenge as we move forward,” she explains.

Both DeFiccio and Dalkilic agree that even though the COVID-19 lockdown made it apparent that more people need more support, tools, resources and spaces to openly address their struggles with achieving optimal mental wellness, it also helped move the needle on making significant strides in encouraging many to become more comfortable first asking for help and then advocating for their needs.

However, as Dalkilic specializes in treatment-resistant depression, or “depression that has not responded to two or more antidepressants,” he and his colleagues have had a front-row perspective on how much more needs to be done to identify, treat and understand patients whose depression has defied traditional options. That’s why the professionals at Depression Doctors have embraced this month especially as an opportunity to educate not only the general public but also the primary care physicians who are often the first stop on an individual’s path to better mental health.

That awareness, he says, also comes with a reminder to check in with yourself to honestly assess “What can I do for my brain’s health?”

“As a society, we don’t like to think about what makes us human and all those feelings,” Dalkilic observes. “So what we need to realize is that we, as individuals and also our family members and friends, do have a brain and a mind, and those brains and minds need care. The brain is the most valuable organ we have, and it deserves the best protection. We want to keep our brains as young and potent and resilient and strong as possible.”


Depression Doctors & TMS Program
(856) 350-5555


Click here to subscribe to the free digital editions of South Jersey Magazine

To read the digital edition of South Jersey Magazineclick here.
Published and copyrighted in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 21, Issue 1 (April 2024)

For more info on South Jersey Magazineclick here.
To subscribe to South Jersey Magazine
click here.
To advertise in South Jersey Magazine
click here.

Author: Madeleine Maccar


Best of Health Care 2024

2024 Top Physicians for Children

Top Physicians 2023

Innovations in Health Care

‘Cancer Does Not Wait’

Enough Already

A Looming Healthcare Crisis

Getting Your Life Back

Top Dentists 2023

Aging Graciously

A Show of Support

Fighting the Good Fight

Building a Community All Year Long

Prioritizing Heart Health

Under the Winter Weather

More Articles