Now What? Understanding Mental Health

Nearly one in five Americans suffered from mental illness in 2017, according to the National Institute on Mental Health. It could be depression, anxiety, eating disorders or substance abuse. These illnesses cost more than $200 billion a year in the U.S., according to the National Health Expenditure Accounts. The illnesses impact emotional and psychological well-being which affects quality of life.

Some mental illnesses have been linked to an abnormal balance of special chemicals in the brain, which help nerve cells in the brain communicate with each other. If these chemicals are out of balance or are not working properly, messages may not make it through the brain correctly, leading to symptoms of mental illness.  Other biological factors that may be involved in the development of mental illness include: genetics, infections, brain defects or injury, or prenatal damage.

Treatments are varied and often require multiple approaches to achieve the best results.

In this episode of the award-winning Now What? series, host and Co-producer Dr. Anna Fisher will convene a conversation that educates and informs the audience about what Mental Health means, what some of the symptoms or warning signs are, the types of treatments that exist, and the importance of self-care, especially in the aging population.

Panel of Experts

Dr. Anna Fisher serves as the Hillcrest Health Services health, quality, and nursing services education expert. She is responsible for the implementation of educational and quality improvement programs following the identification of clinical needs, competency exams, and supporting the need for high quality of care for diverse business lines that include assisted living, memory support, adult day services, home health care, palliative, hospice, post-acute, and skilled nursing care. 

Dr. Fisher is also an adjunct professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at Bellevue University and teaches in the Masters-Health Administration Program. She was awarded the prestigious Maenner Award for Professorship of the Year in 2012. In 2015, she received the APEX Award for Excellence in Health & Medical Writing by Nursing 2015, for an article she co-authored entitled, "Best Practices for Engaging Patients with Dementia."

Dr. Fisher is co-producer of the NET Connects series, Now What?, about elder care and dementia. The program series received a 2014 Nebraska Broadcasters Association Silver Award in the Service to Community category and a 2012 Nebraska Broadcasters Association Bronze Award of Excellence in the category of Service to Community.

Dr. Fisher is currently President of the Consortium of Dementia Alternatives and Vice President of the Montessori International School of the Plains. She is a certified dementia practitioner, licensed nurse, and holds an undergraduate degree in human resources, graduate degree in business management, and a doctorate in health administration.


Dr. Natalie Manley, MD, MPH, is an assistant professor in the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center. Dr. Manley holds a certification in geriatric medicine and medical direction in post-acute and long-term care.

Dr. Manley also serves as the Hillcrest medical director of Palliative Care Services as well as associate medical director for Hillcrest Hospice Care. Dr. Manley’s academic interests include palliative care and hospice, nursing home care, caregiver strain and support, veterans as caregivers and education in community and nursing home care for medical students and residents.

Dr. Manley is a co-investigator on a grant testing a dementia care program that aims to improve the quality of life for persons with dementia and their caregivers. She has published computer-based educational materials and participated in educational video publications. Dr. Manley is a member of the American College of Physicians, American Medical Directors Association and the American Geriatrics Society.

She received her MD and MPH from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Dr. Manley completed residency training and geriatric fellowship at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City. She completed an advanced geriatric fellowship at the VA Medical Center, Salt Lake City.


Dr. David Miers, PhD, LIPC, is the Counseling and Program Development Manager for Mental Health Services at Bryan Medical Center in Lincoln, NE. He has been with Bryan Medical Center for 22 years. Dr. Miers received his B.S. from Nebraska Wesleyan University, a M.S. from St. Cloud State University, and a PhD from the University of Nebraska. He is a Licensed Independent Professional Counselor. He is a member of the American Association of Suicidology and is a Suicidologist. He is the co-founder and past co-chair of the state of Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition and current Board Member.  He is on the leadership group for the Lincoln/Lancaster County Nebraska Youth Suicide Prevention Coalition. He has published research and co-authored a chapter in The Routledge International Handbook of Clinical Suicide Research focusing on family survivors of a child suicide. Dr. Miers assisted in the development of the Lincoln Lancaster Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors (LOSS) team in Lincoln, NE in 2009 and has assisted in the development of other LOSS teams in Nebraska and LOSS team development on a national level.  He has served in the past on several local boards in various capacities including the Lincoln Lancaster County Homeless Coalition, Lincoln Human Services Federation, and Lincoln’s Child Advocacy Center, Nebraska Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), New Americans Task Force, Lincoln Lancaster Mental Health Foundation, State Critical Incident Stress Debriefing Team, and the Disaster American Red Cross Mental Health Team.  Dr. Miers is a graduate of Leadership Lincoln Fellows 33 and a member of the 2018-2019 Leadership Lincoln Program Planning Committee. Dr. Miers is the current Vice President for Acute Care Services for the Nebraska Association of Behavioral Healthcare Organizations.  


Jea Theis is a licensed independent mental health counselor and social worker.  Jea has been working in the social services and mental health field for twenty years, starting out in the area of family violence, as a men's domestic violence counselor and CPS worker.  After completing her MSW degree, Jea practiced in a community mental health counseling center, worked as a social worker and grief counselor for a home and hospice agency, and has spent many years working with children and families impacted by sexual abuse and other trauma. 

Jea has received specialized training in EMDR, Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Parent-child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), Teacher-Child Interaction Training (TCIT), Reflective Supervision and Compassion Fatigue.  Jea is passionate about increasing awareness around compassion and caregiver fatigue - providing education and consultation to agencies and supporting those working in helping professions in our community.  Jea is co-founder of a new and innovative mental health practice called Omaha Therapy and Arts Collaborative (OTAC) which opened April 2016.