Parrish works to ease mental health strain in our community

Published 9:17 am Friday, February 17, 2023

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Nellie Parrish

As emergency rooms are filling up around the state with behavioral health cases, a new employee at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital (VCU Health CMH) hopes to create a safe space for patients struggling with their mental health. Nellie Parrish, a licensed clinical social worker, of Victoria, has 14 years of experience in mental health and has worked in home health, a private practice and at community service boards.

Working closely with psychiatrist Scott Parker, M.D., Parrish is responsible for therapy and connecting clients with community resources. While Parker offers introductory counseling, diagnoses disorders and writes prescriptions, he oftentimes refers clients to licensed clinical social workers and other mental health professionals for additional services.

“Now that we have Parrish’s expertise, we can keep those services in house,” Parker said. “She’s hitting the ground running with a full caseload already.”

Parrish appreciates being the person her friends turn to for help, so from a young age she knew she wanted to work in a profession helping others. She received her Bachelor’s in sociology from Randolph Macon College. During that time, she studied abroad in South Africa. Her experiences inspired her to pursue her Master’s in social work at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“As a therapist, it’s not my place to give advice or tell people what to do,” Parrish said. “I strive to empower my clients by celebrating the strengths they had before they ever walked through my door.”

Parrish offers her clients a place to take a deep breath and start unpacking stressors and trauma. She says she tries to provide support by offering a different perspective and helping clients “identify and name their obstacles.”

While Parrish was completing her four years of practicum to become a licensed clinical social worker, two life changing moments happened. Parrish was pregnant with her first child when she learned about the deadly mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Middletown, Connecticut. Parrish says she realized how great the need is for good mental health resources.

“Fear radiated throughout my body for my unborn child,” Parrish said. “I thought: “Yes, I can do this. It’s my way of giving back to the community and making a safer place for my children and building a better world.”

Parrish sees herself as part of a greater solution that bridges the gap between mental health and the community. Education is also a passion, as she serves on the Southside Virginia Community College board and has provided clinical supervision to Longwood University and VCU students. She also serves on the ethics committee at VCU Health CMH.

Parrish is married with two children, two dogs, two cats and has extended family in the area. In her spare time, she enjoys the outdoors, camping with her family and friends as well as spending time with her kids and supporting their hobbies.

“Advocacy and awareness are a huge part of social work,” says Parrish. “As a lifelong resident of Lunenburg County, and having served in Southside Virginia for over a decade, I have strong ties to the community.”

She wants to be a part of the conversation that moves mental health forward and connects to our community. She believes in dignified and respectful treatment of the whole person and values the importance of working collaboratively with an interdisciplinary team.

“A response to the mental health crises isn’t the responsibility of one entity,” Parrish said. “It is the shared interest of us all.”

VCU Health CMH Behavioral Health Services is located at 140 E. Ferrell St. in South Hill, near the post office. To make an appointment with Parrish or Parker call (434) 584-5400.