Mental health primary care is a form of primary care which also addresses mental health issues. Historically, primary care has focused on physical health issues, ranging from a case of the sniffles to a broken limb. By integrating mental health into the approach to primary care, physicians can serve their patients better, and ensure that intervention for mental health issues is provided in a timely fashion. There are a number of ways in which mental health can be integrated into a primary care practice, clinic, or similar medical facility.
Primary care is the first point of contact with the health care system. When someone goes to the doctor, she or he is taking advantage of primary care. The primary care physician will talk to the patient, conduct an examination, order some tests, and make recommendations about the next step. Sometimes the next step is treatment supervised by the primary care physician, and in other cases, it is a referral to a medical specialist who can address a more complex or specialized issue.
When mental health assessments are not integrated into primary care, patients can miss out on early intervention. In mental health primary care, physicians also consider mental health issues including neurological problems, chemical imbalances in the brain, behavioral issues, and depression when they are working with patients. A mental health primary care practice may include mental health professions who can provide early treatment, and doctors also work closely with mental health professionals to generate patient referrals.
Unaddressed mental health issues can be as damaging for some patients as unaddressed physical health problems. Mental health primary care recognizes this and recognizes that treatment of the whole patient may require the services of several medical professionals who focus on different aspects of the case. Mental and physical health can sometimes play off each other, making it important to recognize mental health issues and their pathology when working in primary care.
A number of nations have started mental health primary care initiatives to promote the integration of mental health services into the primary care system. These initiatives include doctor and patient education, funding of programs which provide mental health primary care, and awareness campaigns about mental health issues to make the general public more aware. Such campaigns can also include the establishment of facilities which provide mental health primary care in needy communities, ensuring that the needs of the population are met.