Study Shows Mental Health not a Priority Amongst General Practitioners

The_Doctor_Luke_Fildes_cropAlmost one in five Americans suffer from mental health conditions. According to studies reported by News Week, approximately 42.5 million Americans, or 18.5 percent of the American population lives with some form of mental illness such as depression, bi-polar disorder, and schizophrenia. The same report accounts that 9.3 million of those adults – ages 18 and upward – suffer from “serious mental illness”, disrupting their ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Problematically, the American mental health care system is ill-equipped to treat many, if not most of these individuals.

Rising scrutiny over the American mental health system has brought to light many inadequacies among general mental health care. For example, many individuals displaying mental illness symptoms seek the help of general practitioners. However general practitioners – although qualified – fail to either properly diagnose or treat mental health. Other conditions that affect physical health are often prioritized and even valued more than those affecting mental health. The Huffington Post reports that doctors often neglect to follow-up with patients displaying symptoms of mental illness. Contrary to that, doctors are much more likely to engage with patients suffering from chronic physical illness. What does this mean? The report found that doctors are actively partaking in treatments for patients suffering from diabetes, heart failure, and asthma, but not for those suffering from mental issues like depression.

Part of the reason for this failure is the general cost of health care. Most individuals suffering  from mental illnesses like depression or bipolar disorder are left out of proper treatment for financial reasons. Specialists are often expensive, and treatments and visitations are not covered by average health insurance packages. General practitioners who are largely unfamiliar or ill-equipped to treat mental conditions do not address the issue with the attention it requires. “Depression is a recurring illness. When it’s there, it’s often present for months. It needs a lot of active management and multiple treatments. Most people can recover from their depression, but they’re vulnerable to a second depression or a third depression,” said Sagar Parikh, associate director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center.

The stigma surrounding mental health illness may also be a contributing factor to inadequate treatments. Doctors may just deem physical ailments as more deserving of treatment, rather than spending time and effort with mental conditions. This may lead to improper doses of possibly harmful medicine. If general practitioners and doctors saw mental health with the same urgency as physical health, many more cases would be properly treated. Mental illness like depression and bipolar disorder lead to other more harmful conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal issues, and strokes.

Lindsey Holmes of the Huffington Post believes that changing cultural attitudes towards mental health disorders may lead to more adequate training for doctors and treatment for individuals. “These illnesses require effective treatment and proper care in order to live a fulfilling, healthy life,” ends Holmes.

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Mental Health & Young People

As the years pass, more medical professionals spend time focusing on the mental health problems that are seen in children under the age of 18. As something that affects a variety of families in the country, mental health is something that should discussed with children. I have created a presentation of the statics of mental health problems affecting the younger generation. Please feel free to comment or share with anyone who are interested. 

Mental Health & Young People from Herrick Lipton on Vimeo.

A Different Kind of First Aid

ISO_7010_E003_-_First_aid_sign.svgWhen many think of ‘first aid,’ a visual of one person putting a bandage on another may come to mind. First aid is usually deemed appropriate when a person suffers some sort of wound. However, mental health is not associated with first aid. On the contrary, mental health is not considered a condition that can be treated in any specific moment; you cannot put a bandaid on someone’s emotions. Nevertheless, the National Council for Behavioral Health has created a mental health first aid course, in which people can learn skills such as how to react appropriately when they believe someone is adopting a mental health issue, and what to do when someone is in the midst of a mental health crisis.

It is astounding how much of the population does not know how to properly react when witnessing the manifestation of a mental health disorder, considering that 1 in 5 persons experience some degree of mental illness each year. Instead, the level of mental illness stigma is rising at an alarming rate because people distrust what they do not understand. Mental health first aid is meant to be a resource for those who have never experienced mental illness to understand the different experiences people with mental illness may have, and how to appropriately react to said experiences. It is, therefore, educating its students and combatting stigma by default.

This course is not simply about lending an ear to someone in need. Rather, it is geared toward all types of tough emotional situations. In 8 hours, its participants are taught about common mental disorders and are made to memorize acronyms for and action plan to react to someone experiencing a mental health crisis. It becomes painfully clear during the training that everyone experiences mental illness differently, and no situation will be as clear-cut as is stitching up a wound. However, the steps taught in the course can, for the most part, be applied to any situation for a short amount of time. Instructors stress that the course teaches an immediate response and is not applicable to longer-term mental health care. When someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, he or she needs assistance right away. However, longer term mental health care should be taken to the professionals.

The step-by-step reaction process is memorized through the acronym ALGEE. It stands for Assess (the situation for risk of harm,) Listen (without judgment,) Give (reassurance,) Encourage (professional help,) and Encourage (other support strategies, including self help.) Of course, not every step can be applied to every crisis, just as not every band-aid is shaped to fit every cut. However, the training stresses that the approach does not have to be in-depth to assist someone in need.

Mental health first aid was created as a program in 2001, and continues to grow. It is a resource that works toward the destigmatization of mental illness, and has the potential to help minimize the number of people who damage themselves during a mental health crisis. Hopefully, this training continues to expand and grow across the world.


Welcome to Herrick’s blog about behavioral health. Stay tuned for updates coming soon!