More Texas Primary Care M.D.s Helping Diagnose Mental Health Issues

by Morgan Montalvo

WOAI News

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. 

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