Aging is inevitable, and life doesn’t stop, no matter what happens. Adult’s physical and mental health can be affected as they age. More and more diseases are being discovered among adults, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. In middle-aged adults, people with high-stress levels also tend to develop these health problems faster.
The brain is a human organ, necessary for bodily function. Thus, it is important to keep it in its best shape for it to function. Mental health is essential for a person’s overall well-being.
Mental health involves emotional and psychological welfare. An individual can use their cognitive and emotional capabilities and meet the ordinary demands of everyday life. However, a person with mental illness can still be considered mentally healthy. This is if they do not experience significant impairment in important areas of functioning.
Although we often hear about mental illness, it’s essential to know that most people with mental illness are not violent. Many people with mental illnesses are no different as they live a decent life and contribute to their communities.
The Problem of Mental Health
The current state of mental health is not integrated into primary care. This means that most people experiencing a mental health issue will go to their general practitioner. They might not get the help they need since they can’t access it.
The solution is to integrate mental health into primary care to become a regular part of what general practitioners do. This way, healthcare will be more accessible to people who need it.
Why Integrate Mental Health With Primary Care?
Physical health problems often accompany mental health conditions. These include cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and asthma which may need specialized treatment.
Integrating primary care with mental health services can help reduce costs. It reduces hospitalization rates and emergency department visits. Integrating mental health with primary care is a process that involves several steps:
- Identifying opportunities for integration within your organization
- Developing a shared vision for integration
- Creating an action plan
- Implementing change management strategies
This approach allows patients to get better treatment during an acute phase of their illness. This can reduce the likelihood that they will become chronically ill or suicidal later in life. It also encourages people to use services before their condition becomes too severe.
Integrating the two can improve access to services for those with physical and psychological health problems. Integrating primary care and mental health is essential because:
1. It Improves Access to Services
In many settings, people with mental health problems cannot get an appointment with a primary care physician. In most cases, they do not have a referral from their general practitioner.
These professionals are often not trained in diagnosing and treating mental disorders. They do not feel comfortable providing these services themselves if they lack experience. Integrating physical health care into primary care improves access to specialist psychiatric treatment. It increases the number of referrals that general practitioners can make to specialists.
2. It Also Helps Patients Feel at Ease
The mental health professional can assess if the patient has any underlying psychological issues that may be impacting their physical condition.
For instance, anxiety or depression could cause headaches or stomach upset. Or chronic pain could trigger feelings of guilt or shame, which cause depression or anxiety. The primary care doctor can then offer appropriate treatment options for both conditions.
3. It Reduces the Negative Image Associated With Mental Illness
Many people think that mental illnesses cannot be treated if they are not severe enough or if the person does not have enough symptoms. But, this is not true at all. Even people with milder symptoms can enjoy therapy and medication, especially if they want to avoid developing more severe problems in the future.
Many people with milder symptoms go untreated because of the stigma associated with mental illness. The stigma associated with mental illness can discourage people from seeking help from their family doctors for their problems.
Integrating mental health into primary care may reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. It will encourage more people to seek help for their problems earlier on in their lives.
4. It Provides Continuity of Care
Integration between mental and physical health has improved outcomes for patients. When integrated, patients are more likely to receive recommended screenings and vaccinations. Patients are more likely to receive appropriate treatment when integrated into primary care settings. It allows for seamless care between mental health and medical providers.
Patients will be able to see both specialists and their primary care physician at the exact location, rather than having separate appointments with each provider. This helps reduce costs through reduced travel time, and fewer missed appointments.
5. Reduce Costs
Integration also helps reduce costs by eliminating the need to duplicate services and facilities. For instance, services that need to provide outpatient therapy or emergency counseling. It also reduces the stigma associated with seeking treatment for a mental health condition. This is so because it’s provided within the standard medical setting.
6. Improving Outcomes Through Integration
One way to improve outcomes is by integrating mental health into primary care settings. By doing so, your family doctor or any provider can better identify people at risk for developing a mental illness.
They can provide timely intervention before they become too ill or disabled to function. It also allows patients to get better treatment during an acute phase of their illness. This is better than waiting until it becomes so severe that they need hospitalization.
Health care systems have recognized the value of integrating mental health services into primary care. Doing so allows patients to see their therapist in a familiar setting. This makes it easier to follow through with treatment recommendations. It also provides them with a base for other mental health services like psychiatric medication if needed.
Integrating these services is not always easy, but it has become an essential part of the vision for health care going forward. Policymakers and system leaders will need to continue working in the years ahead.