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The role of the Primary Care in Preventing Serious Health Conditions Resulted by Mental Health Problems
Primary Care
5 Minutes
People hold hands and run on a field on a sunny day.
Eric used to be a happy guy.
The first time I saw traces of anxiety in his face was the day we were gathered in the restaurant and he had to give himself an insulin shot before starting the meal.
These were monthly gatherings with our friends from high school, and seeing Eric become more stressed and more mentally under pressure became more evident in each get together. In the second gathering after his diagnosis, he arrived late to the restaurant and didn’t eat. He said he had already eaten and didn’t give any explanation. However seeing him stressed the previous time, we could guess what the reason was. He didn’t want to inject his insulin in the restaurant.

The comorbidity of mental disorders with chronic conditions is a considerable subject for both physical and mental aspects of any individual’s health. Amongst all chronic diseases, one of the most psychologically demanding one is diabetes.

There are numerous studies that show depression, anxiety, dementia and delirium are the mental health impacts of diabetes.

The demanding and delicate nature of the daily care required for diabetes increases stress and anxiety levels from the very first day the patient becomes diagnosed with it. At the same time, scientists theorize that the relationship between inconsistent blood sugar and insulin levels in the body and their effects on the brain can lead to symptoms of depression. Numbers show that more than 25% of the patients struggling with diabetes experience comorbid depression.

The next gathering was the same, which is why one of our friends decided to talk to him and see if there was anything we could do for him. But Eric was too proud to let anyone give him advice as he didn’t want to look weak in front of his friends.

It was clear that he needed emotional support. He never got married and was always happy about being single and often made jokes that being single was what helped him socialize more to make friends. But it didn’t take long when he stopped joining our monthly meets.

Today he is a shadow of his former self as a happy guy. He is isolated and rarely responds to phone calls. He doesn’t join our monthly meets anymore, even though we now meet on Zoom due to the current pandemic. Diabetes is not the reason anymore, but depression is.”

The mutual correlation between the chronic diseases, like diabetes, and mental disorders such as depression, highlights many concerns about the importance of the mental well being of patients diagnosed with chronic diseases and it emphasizes the need for proper attention and care.

A clear example of how stress and anxiety can affect health is, gaining excessive weight that leads to obesity.

On the flip side, stress, anxiety and depression are proven to enhance inflammation.

This leads to an increased rate of physical complications for individuals suffering from mental conditions mentioned. A clear example of how stress and anxiety can affect health is, gaining excessive weight that leads to obesity, which in turn paves the way for more critical health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and type II diabetes. In addition, CDC reports obesity results in more severe illness from COVID-19.

Regardless of the approach, not only the treatment of mental health problems in their initial stages play an extraordinary role in avoiding serious health conditions but it also helps reduce overall healthcare costs.

With the direct correlation between our physical health and our mental well being, one might wonder where, when and how they could start the process and prevent possible complications? The answer is, with and through “Primary Care Clinics” as it allows for preparation of a solid foundation to an accessible, affordable, continuous and convenient system that helps their patients at the right time. Furthermore as it was discussed in the previous article, the importance of the primary care provider’s role, as a trusted source, is to reduce the stigma for mental health treatments. Primary care practitioners can educate people about the importance of mental health and provide a solution with high efficacy. This allows patients to be in control of their mental care at the onset, which often results in preventing more severe complications down the road.

Evidence-based therapy and clinically validated programs will empower primary care clinics with not only the platform but also the continuous support and planned regiment of sessions for their patients. For example, in regards to diabetes, OPTT’s special digital CBT program assists diabetic patients with managing their mental health conditions and helps them to adapt to their new lifestyle. When diagnosed with a chronic condition such as diabetes, the early management of behavioural health will become easier and more affordable for patients that have access to this platform through their primary care. This platform, recommended to patients by their primary care practitioner, allows them to receive the mental health treatments instantly from coaches, psychologists or psychiatrists through continuous weekly planned sessions.

Early management of behavioral health allows patients to understand and cope with the stress and the anxiety caused by their chronic condition and still be able to maintain their social life.

In the next part of this blog series we will talk about the preventative role of early access to professional mental health and how it will benefit the patients.

For example, Eric’s story would’ve stopped at the first sentence had he gained access to a professional mental health platform and treatment through his primary care at the time of his initial diagnosis for diabetes. This would’ve allowed him to understand and cope with the stress and the anxiety caused by his chronic condition and still be able to maintain his social life rather than becoming isolated and depressed.

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