by Morgan Montalvo
Texas primary care doctors are taking on larger roles in assessing the mental health of their patients, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Dr. Les Secrest, a Dallas psychiatrist, says family practice examination rooms and offices offer a safe harbor to start the conversation about anxiety, depression, despondency and suicidal feelings.
“We’re wanting to see more and more behavioral health experiences to occur in the primary care setting and have more awareness,” Secrest tells News Radio 1200 WOAI.
He says the current discussion about front-line doctors in Texas being part of the mental health and wellness continuum of care has its origins in a long-term California study from the 1990s that linked physical ailments to undiagnosed or unaddressed psychological issues, from work-or lifestyle-related stressors and holiday depression to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and suppressed childhood trauma.
So-called “adverse childhood experiences,” Secrest says, led to serious quality-of-life ailments and conditions far into adulthood, according to the study.
“The effect of that long-term in one’s life is really quite dramatic,” Secrest says. “If you had four or more of these types of exposures, then your risk of other health problems increased.”
A routine visit or annual examination, says Secrest, offers patients an opportunity to explore mental health concerns with their physicians, who will support someone considering – or ready for – help from a dedicated psychiatric or behavioral health specialist.
About 45 percent of suicide victims visit a doctor within a month of taking their own lives, according to an American Journal of Psychiatry study. And, because many rural Texas counties have no licensed mental health practitioners, primary care doctors offer a person going through a mental health crisis the only chance to talk with a professional, identify stressors, obtain a referral to the nearest specialist, and proceed with treatment.