Healthy Living

How Our Providers Make Mental Health Screenings a Priority

Apr 29 2024

Did you know that 1 in 5 adults will experience a mental illness in a year?

And, oftentimes, mental health illnesses can occur with other physical disorders that, if left untreated, could lead to worsening physical health. Because of this, in practices across our Cincinnati market providers prioritize mental health discussions and screenings for depression in primary care settings.

“There is still a stigma around talking about mental health or seeing a mental health specialist,” Carson Felkel, MD, our ministry’s system medical director of behavioral health, (pictured above, left) says. “We’ve found that individuals feel more comfortable talking to a trusted source first, which is often their primary care provider.” 

To help identify symptoms of mental health illnesses earlier, our primary care providers utilize the patient health questionnaire.

It is an age-appropriate tool used to screen for depression or help determine conditions, such as general stress, anxiety or insomnia. The screening begins before a patient even arrives for their appointment. They are prompted to answer a few questions via MyChart, and then a few more questions once they arrive.

If someone is identified for depression or a potential mental health concern, their primary care provider will then ask additional questions during their appointment. The primary focus of the screening is to address the level of depression, including follow-up needs, because our providers understand the impact depression can have on a patient’s overall health.

Emmett Roper, MD, internal medicine provider at Mercy Health – Forest Park Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, (pictured above, right) has been with our ministry for more than 16 years and uses the answers his patients provide on the questionnaire to help guide the conversation during their appointments.    

“We screen every patient that comes into our practice every time they visit,” Dr. Roper shares.

“Mental or behavioral health isn’t a one-time-a-year thing and patients can have an event at any point that leads to depressive emotions, so it’s important we have open conversations every time we see them.”

Dr. Roper believes the screening is an important tool in addition to having honest conversations with his patients, whether they are identified for mental health concerns or not.

For example, if a patient describes behaviors such as smoking or excessive alcohol use, or shares they recently experienced a major life event like losing a job, that may not be addressed on the screening. However, it can still open the conversation for additional follow-up or treatment that might be needed.

These conversations can also impact how primary care providers help address a patient’s overall well-being.

“Mental health impacts anything else that we may treat,” Dr. Roper explains. “It’s important we understand how mental health can influence our physical health, especially those who may have already been diagnosed with another health condition.”

For our providers, these continued conversations around mental health are important in identifying what support patients may need and, ultimately, getting the care they need.

“We believe in treating the whole person,” Dr. Felkel adds. “As a ministry, we focus on improving the health and well-being of our communities and we’ve seen that when patients are able to verbalize how they might be feeling, there is some relief, and we can work together on helping them feel better.”  

Learn more about the primary care services we provide at Mercy He

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