VHAN Adult Behavioral Health Consult Line Connects New Mother to Vital Mental Health Care

When a new mom arrived for her first postpartum checkup, both her nurse and physician noticed that she seemed listless, depressed and strangely detached from her newborn. When the young mother expressed suicidal thoughts, the team recognized a severe case of postpartum depression and took action immediately. Under different circumstances, the doctor might have recommended visiting a local emergency room, but a call to VHAN’s Adult Behavioral Health Consultation line led to an alternative, and possibly lifesaving, approach.  

“The ER is no place for someone with a mental health issue who doesn’t need medical care,” says Shannon Brown, the licensed clinical social worker who oversees VHAN’s consult line.

As soon as she got the call, Brown recommended the patient undergo an assessment at Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital. Vanderbilt provided the support and intervention she needed.

Hospital staff educated the patient on her options so she could choose the best path for herself and her baby. In coordination with the patient’s mother and partner, the staff developed a safety plan where she wouldn’t be alone and have the opportunity to hurt herself. They also increased her medication, which significantly improved her depressive state. The young mother left Vanderbilt with a schedule for follow-up treatment.

Following the visit, the patient expressed her relief and appreciation, saying, “I didn’t know anyone cared that much about what I was going through.”

Offering Guidance on Next Steps

“We answer calls from providers when one of their patients needs mental health care and they’re not sure what path to take,” Brown says. “We talk through the case to make sure they’re on the right track and offer additional resources if necessary. Those might be outpatient resources, guidance about what to do next or even psychiatry when necessary.”

For Brown, the young mother’s case held special meaning. It was a textbook illustration of why the adult behavioral health consult line is essential and an opportunity to leverage her personal and professional experience to benefit a patient.

“I’m a mom, and I also had postpartum depression,” Brown says. “I was able to say, ‘I get it, I know exactly what you’re going through, and this is not going to last.’ And just seeing the light at the end of the tunnel was a big deal for her. This kind of behavioral health expertise and caring attention are what make this adult consultation line so valuable.”

Because this was a severe case, Brown flagged it for care coordination and reached out to the patient a few days later to see how she was feeling and make sure she knew what to do next.

“We talked for about 20 minutes, and she said it was so nice to hear from someone who could validate her, normalize what she was going through and offer a sense of hope that life would get better and easier as she learned how to be a mom,” Brown says. “I was moved to tears! I believe that, as a team, we likely saved this young woman’s life.”

To refer a patient to the VHAN Care Management program, VHAN members can fill out this form or call (615) 936-2828.

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