Changing the conversation

Reducing the stigma of mental illness begins with education, dialogue and increased awareness

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 1/3/2013

Mental illnesses have historically been viewed, studied and treated as behavior influenced by one’s environment. Only recently has society begun to understand that many such illnesses are biological in nature and not simply the result of an individual’s choice to behave in a socially unacceptable way. 
However, people with mental illnesses continue to be stigmatized by society. It is a complicated subject, and despite the fact that nearly one in five people experience some sort of mental illness in their lives, it remains a subject most people know little about. 
According to clinical psychologist Dr. Ronda Hampton of Diamond Bar, education, dialogue and increased awareness about signs and symptoms are essential to reducing the stigma commonly associated with mental illness. “In recent years, there has been a shift in our understanding of the etiology of mental illness, and there is a recognition that many disorders have a biochemical basis,” said Hampton. “With this understanding, there has been an improvement in medications to treat psychiatric disorders and improved psychological interventions to assist individuals and their families in dealing with psychiatric disorders. When we begin to view mental health as a part of our overall health, the stigma associated with mental illness will be reduced and individuals will not be ashamed to seek evaluations for mental health conditions.”
Separating mental health and physical health is also detrimental because, historically, mental illnesses were not seen as health issues that required treatment. This has led a large number of people to self-medicate. 
Aurora Las Encinas Hospital in Pasadena has been dealing with both mental illness and drug dependency for the past century. With 118 licensed acute care beds, plus 38 residential treatment beds, Aurora Las Encinas offers a wide range of behavioral health care treatment options to patients with psychiatric problems, chemical dependencies, or co-occurring disorders. Psychiatric services include inpatient, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs. Chemical dependency treatment is available for adults, and includes inpatient detox, rehab, residential treatment and intensive outpatient programs, according to the facility’s Web site. 
Aurora Las Encinas Hospital is at 2900 E. Del Mar Blvd., Pasadena. For more information, call (626) 795-09901, or visit
“As a psychologist, I will always ask if there is substance abuse,” said Hampton. “Sometimes that’s masking a larger health problem. Drugs and alcohol dependency isn’t always about addiction. People are ashamed of mental illness because society is not accepting of it.”
It’s important to realize that within the major categories of anxiety, mood, schizophrenia, somatoform and personality disorder there are more than 300 different psychiatric conditions, each calling for different treatment approaches. Hampton believes it is very important to recognize the wide range of mental illnesses that exist, as opposed to lumping them all into one category.
Beyond that initial approach, there are several misconceptions about how mental illnesses affect people. One of the biggest, in Hampton’s view, is that people with mental illnesses cannot lead productive lives.
“Just like any health issue, there are various forms of treatment for those who have mental illness, which can range from improved diet and exercise to a combination of medication and psychotherapy,” she said. “Most of the time, you don’t even know who has a mental illness. Only 2 percent of those who suffer from psychiatric disorders are so mentally ill that they can’t ever take care of themselves.”
Another misconception that Hampton has noticed, especially after the horrific shooting in Newtown, Conn., is that all mentally ill people are violent and dangerous. She said that while the public tends to link violent acts with those who suffer from mental illness, they are more likely to inflict harm on themselves rather than other people.
“The bottom line is that we need to have an increased understanding of mental illness so that people will seek help,” said Hampton. “One in five Americans have or will suffer a mental illness at any given time and there are treatments available, so it is not necessary for people to suffer.”
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the nation’s largest nonprofit mental health education, advocacy and support organization, is located right here in Pasadena, providing countless resources for people to learn about the signs and symptoms of mental illness. 
Visit for more information. 

Overcoming addiction

Pasadena rehab centers help address the real reasons behind drug and alcohol addiction

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 1/3/2013

A lot remains to be understood by society when it comes to alcohol and substance addiction. It can be difficult, even for those addicts who desperately want help to seek it out, because there is a good deal of blame directed at them for their choices. 
Fortunately, there are a large number of rehabilitation options right here in Pasadena.
Larry Burton has helped hundreds of people move forward in their lives using holistic techniques to deal with underlying and lingering issues surrounding addiction. While he wholly endorses traditional 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, he believes a combination of approaches is necessary to address those deep-seated issues that don’t go away the second someone stops drinking alcohol or using drugs.
“Part of the challenge of recovery is that you can help someone get off drugs, but how do you help them cope with stress, anger, guilt and shame?” Burton asked. “You can take away their drugs but what have you given them? We work through the body’s subtle energy system, through scientifically established principles of psychology. I think everything at its core is a form of energy. The pain is disrupted energy, and you need to balance that out in order to resolve the underlying issue and remove the source of the pain. Then you no longer need the drug.”
For the past three years, Burton has worked with Jubilee House in Pasadena, a sober living facility serving female addicts in recovery. Many women he has worked with carry shame stemming from sexual abuse or assault. 
David Ripley, associate director of programs at the Pasadena recovery home Casa de las Amigas, agrees with Burton that addicts, especially women, need to combine traditional approaches to recovery with other options, such as counseling and group work. Casa de las Amigas offers residential treatment services for women.
“Casa de las Amigas approaches addiction by treating the whole woman,” said Ripley. “More often than not, individuals struggling with chemical dependency begin using as a result of trauma or attachment issues stemming from childhood. As a result, they develop co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety or depression. Twelve-step recovery programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, can be very beneficial, but I would also recommend individual and family therapy.
While Burton believes it is possible for people to overcome their physical addictions by themselves outside of any program, he said that what typically happens is they develop a different kind of addiction.
“First of all, it’s much more difficult,” he said. “Also, they may have stopped using, but they still haven’t dealt with the underlying issues that led them to use. They’re just finding other ways to deal with it.”
If you are suffering the pangs of addiction, make it a priority this year to re-evaluate and deeply reflect on why you started using, why you continue to use, and what you stand to gain by overcoming your addiction forever. Figure out what is missing in your life — mentally, emotionally, psychologically, as well as tangibly — and immediately chart a path toward obtaining whatever that is. 
All it takes is a shift in perspective. Empower yourself into believing that you are capable of controlling the decisions you make. If you think it’s hopeless, it will be.
Reach out to those who love you. Strengthen your support network. Do not be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. Pasadena is literally chock-full of rehabilitation options. 
Burton’s Pondera Process helps people to neutralize and eliminate the emotional and psychological blocks that may limit their personal and professional success. Call (877) 487-3462 or visit for more information.
Casa De Las Amigas is a 24-hour alcohol and drug residential treatment center for women, located at 160 N. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. Amigas emphasizes the abstinence of alcohol and other mind-altering substances and the need for physical, mental and spiritual growth in the recovery process. Women 18 years of age or older (or emancipated minors) are provided a safe, clean and sober environment to help them reach the goal of becoming alcohol and drug free. Call (626) 792-2770 or visit
Other rehabilitation centers include:
Impact House — Located at 1680 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, Impact House is one of several local facilities with outpatient and residential treatment options in addition to group, individual and follow-up counseling. Call (323) 681-2575 or visit
Pasadena Recovery Center — Located at 1811 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, the Pasadena Recovery Center has developed a reputation for being a place for recalcitrant celebs down on their luck. It’s also been featured prominently on VH1’s “Celebrity Rehab” with Dr. Drew Pinsky. However, this recovery center has helped thousands of people since the late psychiatrist Dr. Lee Bloom founded it in the 1970s. Today, the facility continues Bloom’s tradition of holistic healing with 12-step programs, counseling, residential services and mind-body activities. Call (866) 663-3030 or visit 
Eaton Canyon Treatment Center — Located at 3323 Fairpoint St. in Pasadena, this accredited treatment center focuses on creating individualized treatment plans for men and women. Call (888) 798-0150 or visit
Walter Hoving Home (for women) — Located at 127 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, this nonprofit residential facility for women 18 and over incorporates a spiritual approach to sober living in a 12-month program. Call (626) 405-0950 or visit
The Gooden Center (for men) — Located at 191 N. El Molino Ave. Pasadena, this accredited drug and alcohol treatment center guides adult men and their families through the painful process of detoxification and long-term sobriety. A 12-step recovery process addresses the psychological, spiritual and emotional underpinnings of addiction. Call (626) 356-0078 or visit