Scottsbluff nursing graduate looks to inspire others

by Vicky Cerino, UNMC strategic communications | May 16, 2022

Image with file name: Nurse051522.jpg

Talking about mental health issues is very personal and difficult.

But if, through her story, Caitlin Pittman can inspire even one person to reach out for help, she said it will all be worth it.

Pittman, a new UNMC College of Nursing graduate from Gering, is telling her story to encourage others to reach out for help even when it looks like there is no hope. Pittman graduated earlier this month from the College of Nursing's West Nebraska Division in Scottsbluff.

Three weeks into starting her first year in nursing school, she received a phone call from social services asking if she and her husband would take an emergency placement of young children in foster care. They couldn’t say no. With two young children of their own, the family went from four to seven.

After a few months, it came to be too much. A family member of the children was able to take care of the children.

"I was failing two classes. I had to retake them in the summer, but I was able to go on to the following fall semester."

"It was hard to let them go," Pittman said. "It was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life."

Then the COVID-19 pandemic came along and made life more difficult, she said. She also lost two grandparents who were a huge support for her family.

"I had a fear I wouldn’t pass school," Pittman said.

Ultimately, she was hospitalized twice for short periods during nursing school for anxiety and depression. "When I was in the hospital, I was frightened for my life - to the point that I needed to ask for help," she said. "We have lost friends to suicide.

"The doctors wanted me to quit nursing school, but we said quitting was not an option. I needed to be able to work and go to school," she said.

One potential treatment would have caused memory issues, so she decided against it. They found a specialized treatment that required a two-hour round-trip drive once a month.

"It’s taken time and financial resources this past year. Insurance didn’t cover it, so we had to be resourceful to pay for it."

She hopes to inspire others with her story -- so no one else has to lose their life, or lose a loved one, to suicide.

"It’s a feeling of helplessness. It’s a feeling I know. For the longest time, I was afraid of asking for help. I want others to know they are not alone -- that they can reach out for help even though it feels like there is no hope. There are resources to help. Without them, I wouldn’t be here today."

She wants people to know that mental health conditions are diseases, just like cancer is a disease.

"It’s okay to need treatment, but a lot of people look at it as a weakness," Pittman said.

She said the support of family and friends made a difference as well.

"(Successfully graduating) was not without a support system. Family, friends and my parents helped a lot. I couldn’t have done it without them."

Pittman has loved working in the emergency room at Regional West Medical Center. She has a job lined up in the infusion clinic where patients are treated for various conditions.

Micho Martinez
May 20, 2022 at 1:32 PM

Thanks for sharing your story. Mental Health needs to be taken seriously. Too many people fail to seek help and it is a tragedy. I hope more people will share their stories and inspire others to seek help. There are many resources available. Thanks again. Good luck. Your future is looking brighter. You are strong, never forget that.

Emily McElroy
May 17, 2022 at 10:15 PM

Thank you so much for sharing your story.

Dr. Sheritta Strong
May 16, 2022 at 2:05 PM

Congratulations! Thank you for being an inspiration!

Charles Klinetobe
May 16, 2022 at 10:06 AM

thank you for sharing your story. Congratulations on your graduation.

Pam Uhlir
May 16, 2022 at 10:04 AM

Thank you for telling your story Caitlin. Your willingness to reach out for help & to accept support from your family is a great example for others. Welcome to the Nursing profession. You will make a wonderful nurse as your own story will guide you in helping others in their most vulnerable time!

Terri Vadovski
May 16, 2022 at 8:27 AM

Congratulations on your accomplishment! Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are a brave and smart woman. Good luck with your future endeavors.

Linda Jensen, PhD RN. Emeriti UNMC
May 16, 2022 at 8:12 AM

Congratulations Caitlin! Thanks for helping others by telling your story!

Beth Beam
May 16, 2022 at 8:06 AM

Great story...congratulations on achieving so much under such difficult circumstances.