“Human Dignity is more precious than prestige”.
Dignity is defined as ‘the state of being worthy of honour or respect’, and the married tandem of Nicholas and Kimberley Darceuil have embarked on a mission for the restoration of these very qualities among those burdened by the combination of mental illness and addiction and affiliated stigma.
As a means of accomplishing their goal the pair have established Dignity House, a residential treament centre that caters to persons suffering from challenges associated with mental illness and drug addiction, addressing both components simultaneously.
“The name ‘Dignity’ came from the desire that we have to have people that have mental challenges not living with indignity, to have dignity,” explained Mrs Darceuil. “We wanted to have a name that depicts value in a person, hence ‘dignity’.
The pair started the business in March of 2022, when they opened two physical centres and received their first resident in May of the same year, with the focus being on clients who have mental challenges and/or emotional challenges related to a dual-diagnosis of mental or emotional challenges connected to substance abuse and misuse.
While many might consider the abuse of drugs and the misuse of drugs as being the same, Mrs Darceuil noted key differences in manners of consumption.
“My definition of substance misuse is using substances that, say, a doctor prescribes in a way that is not intended for it to be used,” she said. “Substance abuse is using any substance prescribed or otherwise in a way that will have a very negative impact on your health and behaviour.
“Misuse will have the same effect, but misuse, to me, is more like the definition, whereby you’re not using it correctly.
“For example, you think that Tylenol is going to have a different effect than it being an analgesic. ‘I’m taking this medication and I think it’s for something and that is not what it’s meant to be used for’.”
Mr Darceuil described the facilities as a multi-faceted, helping service provider in the fields of mental health and addiction. “With our two centres we have strategised, whereby we have two levels, including a premium level and a bronze level,” said Mr Darceuil. “In the premium level we have a bed-seating for nine patients and offer treatment in terms of trauma therapy, psychotherapy, DVT, psychiatrist, patient therapist, recreation therapist, substance misuse and substance abuse support.
“We also have partnerships with sources, who supply psychology and psychiatry and are trained in dialectic therapy and cognitive behaviour therapy.
“Meanwhile, in the second unit, which is the bronze level unit, we offer emotional and psychiatric support and have psychiatrists that come monthly.’
Individual counselling is given once a week to go with daily DBT (Dialectic Behaviour Therapy) classes from 9 am to noon and an Understanding Mental Health class from 2 pm until 3 pm each day.
“It’s a very comprehensive, aggressive approach, regardless of the site, to help people regain their life.
Mrs Darceuil highlighted that the centres provide for 24-hour care, with a key feature being that there is a provision for mental health to co-workers, who are trained in dialectic behaviour and use associated language to help patients to move forward in life with greater confidence and stability.
“I’ll give you just a brief example,” began Mrs Darceuil. “If a person is angry about something, we take the approach as to identify, ‘What happened? What are the facts? What led to this? Was it something already present within you? Are you already angry and taking it out?’
“These are some of the things we look to decipher. We look to find out why a person is angry and teach them how to manage their emotions and manage the outcome of their anger.”
The operation was said to be the first of it’s kind in Bermuda, differing from others in its methodology, whereby both the mental and addiction components are treated at the same time.
“Dual diagnosis, which includes both of the components, are very difficult to treat, on a whole, not just locally but internationally,” said Mr Darceuil. “The statistics universally for facilities that can treat dual diagnosis are very slim.
“Our approach is to treat both the psychosis or mental health illness together with the addiction problem.
“And hence we use dialectic behaviour therapy with a very aggressive approach to the combination of all the adjunctive therapies, which are occupational, recreational, psychiatry, psychology counselling, that has proven successful to the clients that have engaged our services.
“Most people try to treat the substance issues first and then treat the psychosis and paradoxically, when that happens, there is a lot, so there is often a relapse.
“So, when John has both psychotic episodes and anxiety, but John goes to a treatment centre that treats his anxiety and depression and when he’s finished and is stable he goes to get treatment for his substance use.
“Then in his treatment for his substance abuse the anxiety or depression increases and John now has a dilemma of fighting two battles within two different illnesses.
Mrs Dareuil noted a great need on the Island for the treatment Dignity provides, saying: “This is the first facility of its kind here on-island not worldwide but we believe that we need this in Bermuda.
“I can recall working at the then St Brendan’s as a teenager for a summer job and Christmas vacations, and I would say, ‘Didn’t this person get treated earlier in the summer and now they’re back again’ or ‘Wasn’t this person here at Christmas time and now they’re here in the summer-time. What’s going on?’
“At the time, my knowledge of mental health was extremely limited, but having now been a nurse for more than 25 years and seen a bit this still happens.
“So,I ask: ‘What can be done for person who has an acute episode,goes home and is stable for a few months or years and then goes back?’
“That is tiring. It’s tiring and takes a lot out of the person’s life. The family life as well, Sometimes even the ability to maintain employment, because you’re always sick.
“They way that people view and treat you is poor, because the stigma is very strong, while the knowledge about mental health is poor and people don’t want to know about it.
“People will comment that a person is going up to MAWI and the stigma causes people to avoid getting help, so many suffer in silence. And this ignorance regarding mental illness actually helps to support the stigma due lack of knowledge, which is something we have experienced time and time again in our professional careers.
“With Dignity we want to do something about it. We want to help people to restore their dignity and regain value or themselves, their family members, their children, grandchildren and believe people deserve this.”
Another stumbling block for many is cost, with insurance agencies usually willing to accommodate the professional treatment expenses, but not residential costs.
“Treatment is expensive and, so far in Bermuda we are asking people to lobby for themselves with the insurance agencies,” said Mr Darceuil. “They will pay the professional fees but they will not pay the residency fees, which has a lot of people restricted as to what level of care they can receive.
“I challenge anybody to ask themselves what is the cost of one’s mental health? What is the cost of our not having 26 admissions and just having one admission? What is the cost to one’s life.”
Mrs Darceuil offered told a depressing story of one man’s dilemma to highlight how cost should be dismissed as an deterring factor to a persons being afforded treatment.
“Just this past Christmas I asked someone where they were going to spend Christmas, whether it be with family, cousins, friends and they said: “I don’t have anywhere to go, I am alone.
“I asked if they had any friends and they said that they had no friends.
“He told me that each time he had had an acute episode of mental illness he loses something and with that is a loss of a friend or personal relationship, so he is alone.
“So, my question is, ‘How valuable is anyone’s mental health to them?.
“If you are in the corporate world how valuable is your mantle health and what would it take to maintain it?
“And when we look at the finance and how much it may cost I would say that for all of the professional services that the cost for all the professional help that would be given to a particular person I would have to put a price tag of $20,000 per person.
“That would help with the residential aspect as well as the professional fees to support that person.”
The length of treatment at Dignity House ranges from three to six months, with a need for follow up recovery sessions and counselling.
Those seeking assistance for themselves, a loved one or even comrade can contact Dignity House by phone at (441) 333-6095 or vial email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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