Supporting Mental Health

Susanne Choby, MD, loves the mountains.

“There’s something about mountains that speaks to the human condition, who I am on the most fundamental level,” she says. “The mountains feel good for my mental, physical and spiritual health. They are beautiful, majestic, full of imperfections and great wisdom.”

Dr. Choby is St. Luke’s Wood River’s new psychiatrist. Raised in West Virginia, where she also attended college and medical school, Dr. Choby didn’t plan on specializing in psychiatry; she planned to be an interventional cardiologist. But after her psychiatry rotation, one of her professors told her she excelled in psychiatry. She then realized psychiatry fit her personality. “I felt really comfortable, authentic and right in psychiatry.”

After 15 years in West Virginia, in private practice, as a professor and in the university hospital, Dr. Choby decided it was time to head west. The timing was right, as St. Luke’s Wood River needed an expert psychiatrist to help lead its mental health services.

“I feel really thankful for where I am now,” she says. “I’m glad I worked in a penitentiary, worked with homeless individuals and medical students. All of the things that I did seem to have perfectly positioned me to feel comfortable working with people from all walks of life.”

Reflecting on her first year at St. Luke’s Clinic – Mental Health Services in Hailey, Dr. Choby has a good grasp on the issues, needs and challenges facing our community. While significantly different in many ways from her experiences in rural Appalachia, Dr. Choby realizes that many of the problems are universal. “The problems are the same,” she says. “I realized that tangible goods and money do not exonerate you from the human condition.”

She does note one difference is the immense level of generosity that supports mental health services at St. Luke’s Wood River. Generosity helped to fund the construction of the Mental Health Clinic, and the support for services continues today.

“There are so many people that I see in this clinic that would not be getting any care if it were not for St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation,” Dr. Choby says. “I’ve never worked in an environment that has this level of support for helping my patients get what they need.”

St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation supports scholarships for mental health medications and services.

“I don’t want to be a part of the problem for the patient,” Dr. Choby says. “If a patient comes in for help, knowing that a patient’s care is not going to create a financial hardship is fantastic and takes a lot of stress off of everyone.”

When asked why she feels there is such a mental health crisis in our society today, she replies, “We are living a life that is inconsistent with who we are as human beings. We are overscheduled, overstimulated, rely on technology for communication, have less face-to-face encounters, and are not engaged in recreation and physical activities. The human brain/body hasn’t evolved all that much, but society has.”

She continues, “The fact of the matter is life is messy, life is hard at times. We try to get people to feel better.”