To help improve mental health services for southern West Virginia, Beckley Appalachian Regional Healthcare Hospital has hired a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
Dr. Shilpa Sammeta, after completing her residency in general psychiatry in Charleston and her fellowship at WVU in Morgantown, joined the B-ARH team Nov. 1.
During her residency, she found child psychiatry was a passion for her.
“I think I’m very much at ease with children. I think they’re at ease with me, too.”
Sammeta said intervening at an earlier stage in life can prove highly beneficial, as some things in life are much harder to change later on.
“The developmental process of a child is an important time to focus on,” she said. “We can help prevent future issues, help them cope with stressors and help them grow to be successful.”
Childhood and adolescence is a time for gaining self-confidence and skills needed to go into society, Sammeta said. She said medication to help chemical imbalances, or therapy to help behaviors, can go a long way in children’s development.
She offers in-patient services at B-ARH, and outpatient services at the Southern West Virginia Clinic, at 250 Stanaford Road in Beckley.
Sammeta, the mother of two young children, said she feels more able to relate to parental concerns as a parent herself.
“It’s hard to bring a child to the hospital, no matter the doctor. I’m empathetic about that. I understand where they’re coming from.”
Sometimes, she said, the hardest part is taking that first step. But after the doctor’s visit, parents oftentimes realize going to a psychiatrist is just like going to any other doctor.
“There are some preconceived notions, but when they find that’s not the case, they’re much more relaxed.”
She said she understands it can be difficult for a parent to hear their child may need therapy or treatment, but she encourages them to be open-minded.
Stigma surrounding mental health is still prevalent in West Virginia, but Sammeta hopes through outreach and education, a better understanding can be reached.
With every patient Sammeta encounters, she asks herself, “What would you do if this were your family?”
“I think a lot of doctors do this, and I think that’s the way you give the best care,” she said. “You have to put yourself in that…