Real Patients, Real Stories

Former inpatient becomes key member of Mobile Crisis Outreach Team



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When Meigan Berry wakes up in the morning, she doesn’t know where her job might take her that day. A park? A living room? A homeless shelter? A CEO’s corner office?

As a peer specialist on the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute Mobile Crisis Outreach Team (MCOT), Berry is always on the move, paying visits to Salt Lake County residents facing mental health challenges wherever and whenever they need help. A free service offered by University of Utah Health and the county, MCOT is deployed in pairs that include a master’s-level clinician and a peer specialist. Berry’s role? Relate, empathize, understand.  

She’s uniquely equipped for her job: Not only does she hold a bachelor’s degree in psychology, she knows what it’s like to claw her way back from the depths of a crippling mental health challenge. On visits, as her MCOT colleagues assess how to best help callers from a clinical standpoint, Berry offers a knowing smile and compassionate words. By simply being there, she provides an impressive example that better days lay ahead. 

“I think, for a lot of people, it’s comforting knowing, ‘Hey, somebody’s been where I’m at, and they’ve gotten through it. They’ve learned how to manage these things and can offer advice,’” said Berry, who was first diagnosed with bipolar I disorder shortly after being medically released from her LDS mission in Chile.

Those were bleak days in Chile. Berry became suicidal and spent a lot of time crying and staying in bed. 

“I could see the day, but I was unable to see past that, and I really didn’t want to see past the moment I was in,” Berry said.

Back home, an inpatient stay at UNI jumpstarted her recovery.

“Group therapy helped me look outside of myself and go ‘Oh, look, other people have problems too, and this is how they dealt with them,’” Berry said. “All of a sudden, it wasn’t just about me.”

 A course of Transcranial Magnetic Therapy — a noninvasive method psychiatrists use to stimulate small areas of the brain — changed everything.  

“It got me to a point where I was well enough to be able to learn a lot of skills to be able to help myself,” said Berry, who has worked as an MCOT peer specialist since the program began three years ago.

Today, she’s doing well, but she’s careful to remain on guard for signs of depression and mania. Helping others as a full-time MCOT staffer gives her a boost.

“I think my message for a lot of people is to be patient with themselves,” Berry said. “A lot of times, people who had been doing well but are now in crisis expect that they need to have a perfect life. In reality, if they continue to be patient and deal with what’s going on, life will eventually kind of even out.”

 

 


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