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Johns MHM Column (4)

“Where to Start: Mental Health in a Changing World.” That is Mental Health America’s theme for this year's Mental Health Month, which is observed in May. As Mental Health America notes, society is getting more comfortable with discussing mental health, but people still may not know “where to start” when it comes to their own mental wellbeing.

To that end, Proem Behavioral Health® supports Mental Health America’s mission to help ourselves and society with taking these three steps:

  • LEARN how modern life affects mental health with new resources to navigate our changing world.
  • ACT by building a coping toolbox to manage stress, difficult emotions, and challenging situations.
  • ADVOCATE to improve mental health for yourself, your friends and family, and your community.

Mental Health America has created a toolkit to help individuals figure out where to start. The toolkit provides free, practical resources for addressing mental health. Go to Mental Health America's dedicated Mental Health Month webpage to learn more.

The Role of Primary Care

The resources from Mental Health America are certainly a great place to start. But when self-help efforts aren’t enough, we need to seek professional help.


The first line of defense for many of us is our most trusted health partner, who is often our primary care physician (PCP). According to a study, nearly 60% of those who needed help for any mental illness visited their PCP instead of a psychiatrist. In addition, PCPs prescribed half of the antidepressants and anxiolytics for depression or anxiety during the study period.


This makes sense when you think about it. Unlike psychiatrists, PCPs are accessible in all geographic locations, patients already have strong bonds with their PCPs, and people trust their PCPs to help them navigate their total health, not just physical health. PCPs also have training and expertise required to treat mental illness. As the study authors noted, “Our study underscores the importance of supporting access to primary care given primary care physicians’ critical role in combating the COVID-19 related rise in mental health burden.”


At the same time, I know from speaking with many PCPs that they are overwhelmed by the care they are being asked to provide, and they feel like mental health care is just one more responsibility to add to their already overflowing plates. This feeling is justified. A recent study found that PCPs would need 26.7 hours per day to provide all the guideline-recommended care to their patients.


So, people want to receive mental health care from their PCPs, but their PCPs are stretched too thin. What can we do? Where can we start?


I believe technology can help and is helping. At Proem, we are working to assist PCPs by providing automated tools that accurately and efficiently guide their behavioral health care decisions. Our licensed digital mental health screeners and assessments can be completed by patients before they visit their PCPs, giving providers the ability to quickly rule out and home in on a patients’ behavioral health conditions. As a result, PCPs can confidently and quickly make treatment or referral decisions without spending additional time assessing and diagnosing patients.


As for what we can all do to help, when we do seek professional mental health assistance, we need to be as open and honest, comprehensive, and concise as possible. That will allow our PCPs to better guide us to the care we need so we can be healthier and live happier lives.


Let’s start there and build on our success!


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