ICBioethics Blog 

First Steps to Improve the Mental Health Problem

Written by: Leah Jeunnette, Ph.D.(c)

Katherine Record’s NEJM article (April 2014) highlighted some of health care’s systemic problems with effectively identifying severe mental illness and averting disaster.  In “Treating Our ‘Situations’ with Science, Not Shame,” Record addressed current obstacles to treating those with severe mental illnesses.  As I wrote in my last blog, seeking out treatment and navigating a convoluted system can create more frustration –resulting in more harm than good.

Record lists 3 problem areas: PCPs, health plan limitations, and pharmacology. PCPs have their hands full screening for much more than general health issues: domestic violence, STIs, prescription use/abuse, and various mental health issues.  As many complaints regarding PCPs involve lack of time actually spent with patients, one wonders how these screenings can be thorough and/or effective.

Don’t we need more consistent methods and supportive systems?  Patients and PCPs deserve accessible information; PCPs need to be allowed adequate time to effectively assess patients and time to update and augment their mental health training; and available screenings need to be streamlined, consistent, designed for maximum accuracy and efficiency.  Systems may need to change their culture – applaud prevention/early ID as an integral part of effective care; encourage referrals and follow-ups when any mental health concerns arise. Health plans need to provide affordable, comprehensive coverage for mental health! Can these goals be accomplished?

Record led in with Antoinette Tuff’s words to the terrorist at her school: “We all have situations in our lives.” What definitive, pro-active steps can we all take to help struggling individuals (and those providing/overseeing care!) manage these “situations” before they erupt?

Mitch GennusoComment