Mental Health and Primary Care

It’s hard to say any one system of medicine is perfect, or even close to perfect. The truth is, healthcare is flawed and because of this, it’s an ever-evolving system. One that I hope to see improve over my time as a student and as a practitioner in the future. As part of my second year training at Bastyr, and in preparation for my role as a clinician this summer, I have started my Clinical Counseling training. This series of classes prepares me to counsel patients as a student clinician. I am learning how to actively listen and reflect, how to provide a space for an individual to heal, and most importantly, I am learning how to provide care without feeling as though I’m required to have all the answers.

This experience has led me to reflect on the importance of incorporating mental health into primary care. I can honestly say that simply attending class and experientially learning these skills with my classmates has been extremely beneficial to my wellbeing in the last six months.

Locally in Seattle, Healthpoint Clinics provide mental health services to patients free of charge. This movement supports the American Psychological Association’s political position that we should fully integrate psychologists and their services in initiatives that strengthen the role of primary care in the health system. The World Health Organization also recognizes the value and importance of mental health in primary care. In fact, they make the following statement in their Global Perspective on integrating mental health into primary care:

“For too long, mental disorders have been largely overlooked as part of strengthening primary care. This is despite the fact that mental disorders are found in all countries, in women and men, at all stages of life, among the rich and poor, and in both rural and urban settings. It is also despite the fact that integrating mental health into primary care facilitates person-centered and holistic services…many people think that mental disorders affect only a small subgroup of the population, but the reality is that up to 60% of people attending primary care clinics have a diagnosable mental disorder.”

As a future Naturopath I feel that this is an area where we can excel as care providers. We are fortunate to be giving clinical counseling training as part of our education, and these are valuable skills in today’s health climate. To see the whole person is to acknowledge and recognize the state of mental health in an individual.

References
World Health Organization
American Psychological Association
Health Pointe Clinic

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