News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 28, 2013

South Koreans get mental health advice

12-person group learns how U.S. deals with issues like depression

Dustyn Fatheree
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A group of 12 students, professors and social workers from Hanil University – located in South Korea — landed in America Thursday to learn from Hamilton Center locations in Vigo County.

This is the fourth year in a row that Indiana State University’s department of social work has partnered with Hanil University to host visitors in an exchange of ideas about mental health.

“We all have different perspectives culturally,” said Sarah Ritter, chief clinical officer. “We understand that there are a lot of differences, but we are dealing with the same issues. We show them what a day in the life of one of our employees is like as well as services we provide. They can possibly apply some things learned here back in South Korea.”

The program aims to show how America deals with mental health issues such as depression, substance abuse, suicide prevention and anxiety. It also sheds light on   housing, treating and employing affected people.

South Korean mental health is a supplemental program of the government, said In Kim, professor of social welfare at Hanil University.

“I am impressed with a nonprofit organization like the Hamilton Center and the programs they have,” Kim said.

Sungeun An, a Hanil student, said that some major problems faced in America aren’t prevalent in South Korea.

“I didn’t realize drug abuse was such a serious problem in America,” An said. “Not many people in South Korea take drugs. It isn’t a problem because it is nearly impossible to find.”

Another aspect different from South Korean mental health programs is how patients are divided, said Greg Allen, Hamilton Center referral liaison.

“In South Korea, they have whole hospitals treating people from ages six to 60 years old all in the same complex,” Allen added while comparing mental health programs. “Attendees seem impressed that we divide people into adolescent, adult and different stages.”

Thursday was the group’s first day in America and they will be staying until Wednesday, when they will depart for South Korea, said Robyn Lugar, social work professor.

The group is going to Chicago this weekend to see cultural landmarks and visit mental health-related sites, she said.  They are attending Marilyn Community Church on Sunday. Next week, they will go to Turkey Run State Park, Union Hospital and Westminster Village. They plan to take in the July 4 fireworks at Fairbanks Park.

Reporter Dustyn Fatheree can be reached at 812-231-4255 and dustyn.fatheree