Would we benefit from regular ‘Mental-Health’ check ups?

Whilst I was training to be a Therapist, I learned how to support people with stress, depression and anxiety disorders, and those who were struggling with self-injury and suicidal thoughts.

I still draw heavily on my training when faced with clients in crisis but I was reading an article today which made me look at how we could look at treatment differently.

I have had many new enquiries recently, unsurprising with all the turmoil around at the moment.   It appears that the prevalence of mental disorders has increased substantially and many enquiries have been from people with diagnosable conditions. But a large number of cases involved “adjustment disorders,” which are not mental illnesses. They are symptoms that occur in response to stressful life events.

I am delighted that my sessions with my client have been relatively inexpensive for them and have had good effects. A recent client came in having experienced a panic attack, which had left her feeling very anxious that this could happen again. During her first session I focused on correcting her misconception and with positive suggestions through the use of hypnotherapy she needed just three sessions to feel more like her usual self again. In another instance, I saw a young man who was feeling depressed following the break up of his marriage. I helped him look at ways to remain socially and physically active, building positive routines into his life and after six sessions, he was feeling more in control and able to slowly move forwards.

This is consistent with the findings of the article which suggests that brief therapeutic interventions are highly effective for people with adjustment disorders.

And the article suggested that “People should be able to seek guidance from mental health professionals before they need a diagnosis. It should be the norm for everyone to have an annual appointment with a Counsellor / Therapist”.

It went on to say that,  “This approach is already practiced in many other areas of health care: It’s called prevention. The NHS recommends that even individuals who aren’t at elevated risk of periodontal disease have dental well visits once or twice a year”.

Preventive dentistry allows practitioners and patients to identify and deal with issues quickly and with minimal intervention. Cleaning teeth, checking gums for decay, and filling small cavities is better than waiting until it’s time for invasive and expensive procedures such as a root canal.

Preventive psychotherapy could work in a similar way. It could help people recognise and cope with smaller emotional concerns, before the onset of depression, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or another mental health problem.

Patients could begin by completing self-report.  These measures take just minutes to complete and help clinicians screen people for common mental health problems such as worry, social anxiety, panic, unwanted thoughts or obsessions, compulsive repetitive behaviors, alcohol/substance use, non-suicidal self-injury, and suicidal thoughts or activity.

With that information in hand, psychologists could also identify stressors in the patients’ lives such as finances, relationships and work, and the clients could learn steps for dealing with them. For example, someone struggling with work-related stress could be trained to practice a two-minute mindfulness exercise each day. Someone in a strained relationship could be coached to raise their concerns in a loving manner with their partner, before issues become major impasses. People who feel sad, anxious, or worried could learn to recognise and accept their distress, so they don’t develop full-blown depressive or anxiety disorders.

Beyond the economic and health benefits, psychotherapy well visits would help put an end to mental health stigma. Historically, mental distress has been a mark of disgrace and source of shame. For this reason, fewer thank half the people with a diagnosable mental disorder receive professional help. 

Routine visits to a psychotherapists could normalise mental health care.

“The isolation and trauma of the pandemic have taught us that managing our mental health is crucial. Do we really want to take the health of our teeth more seriously than the health of our minds?”

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this, should we take more notice of our mental-health and how could we incorporate check-ups into our routine?

Reference: David H. Rosmarin is an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and founder of the in New York.