During the summer of 2021, Caren Phillips, 63, of Depoe Bay, experienced a sudden onset of extreme anxiety. Her symptoms were so severe that she went to the emergency department five times in one month.
“I couldn’t handle it,” Phillips recalled. She couldn’t sleep. She was afraid to drive.
“I was very close to being a shut‑in,” she said.
Finally, when her sister died in a nursing home before she could say goodbye, it became too much for her to handle alone.
“I need to get help,” she told herself.
Phillips was able to find mental health care when she visited the office of her primary care provider at Samaritan Depoe Bay Clinic. Like many Samaritan clinics, mental health services are integrated so people can receive behavioral and mental health care in a comfortable and familiar setting.
At the clinic, Phillips met with Licensed Clinical Social Worker Helen Beaman who diagnosed the issue and taught her coping strategies guided by cognitive behavioral therapy. Phillips’s primary care clinician was advised on prescription medication by Psychiatrist Patricia Gardner, MD.
“With the help of my care team, I was able to heal and move forward,” Phillips said.
Phillips is sharing her story in hopes that it will encourage others who need help to seek mental health services.
“I don’t want people to give up or keep silent,” Phillips said. “There is such great help out there. There is a way back.”
Phillips said once she realized that she couldn’t get better on her own and asked for help, she was able to begin to take control of her life.
“I learned a lot. I dealt with things deep inside of me. I was able to release those things,” she said. “I have become more well‑rounded.”
Phillips remembers what it felt like when she was waiting in the parking lot of the Samaritan Depoe Bay Clinic, questioning whether she would go in. That first step can feel like the hardest.
“Mental illness can be a scary place. Saying, ‘I need some help’ is very powerful,” Phillips assured.
All it takes is letting someone at your primary care clinic know that you are struggling.
“They’ll know where to direct you,” Phillips said.
Phillips now shares her gratitude by making gifts of her photography prints set in frames she buys and embellishes. She also enjoys spending time with her grandchildren and friends and walking near the beach — things she took for granted before.
“Every day I am grateful I am here.”