I became interested in working in mental health not entirely of my own free will. I guess you could say, it had made it’s way into my world via family members and friends as well as my own problems when I was younger. So when I was at uni and I came across any information about mental illness, whether it was pathology or prescription, it was when I undoubtedly resonated most strongly with what I was learning. I’ve had some great opportunities throughout my career to feed my interest, met some wonderful mentors and some other powerful teachers who were often my patients. It’s now become a running joke among my teenage children that all my friends are either psychologists or have some sort of mental health diagnosis, ‘…and what does that say about you?’ they love to add teasingly. Well it says a lot probably: that I enjoy people who are comfortable talking about the psychology of our lives and ourselves, that I deeply appreciate that to be human is to suffer and we all suffer it’s just a question of degrees and the bravest of us share that with others. Lastly, I think it tells you that I live in the real world with real people
I feel mental health literacy for health professionals has never been more important. That doesn’t mean that you have a ‘fix’ for every problem (or please tell me if you do because I still don’t!). It just means that you know what to look for, can participate in identifying or confirming for patients, who already have a hunch, that something is out of balance and know how to play your part in that person’s management of the condition.
Most of us have some ways we assess patients that we can’t imagine having to work without. It might be as simple and fundamental as your initial intake forms that you have worked away at perfecting ever since you first graduated. For me objective validated psychometric assessment is that thing that I wish I had been taught and used from the very beginning. These are scientifically validated screening tools for depression, anxiety, bipolar, PPD. PTSD etc. that are super easy to administer, create a common language when you are communicating with other health professionals and can make the difference between a safe prescription and management approach and an unsafe one. More than that, I feel these tools open the door to bringing the psychological wellbeing of all of our patients out of the closet and into the consulting room, in a safe and reaffirming way for clients and clinicians alike.
As integrative health practitioners we talk a lot about treating the ‘whole person’, but I would argue that we rarely see the ‘whole’. Using appropriate mental health screening surveys, shines light on many of these crucial harder to see parts. These tools ask questions we don’t. Regardless of whether it’s because we don’t know to, don’t feel comfortable to or don’t have the time to – you will be surprised at how people respond and clients’ response make great conversation deepeners if not starters.
I’m a true convert and thanks to my mentors, I have become increasingly familiar and comfortable with more and more of these tools. Back in August I presented a workshop in Byron Bay on this topic, in which I passed on these resources as well as some integrative mental health assessment tools (methylation questionnaire, pyrrole checklist, pathology test interpretation for mental health etc.). Here is what one attendee had to say about the workshop:
“Just a quickie to say thanks for sharing the mental health screening tools at your recent workshop. I find it difficult to effectively monitor the new mums who don’t come in – I’ve been sending the PND form out to these women, and have picked up a serious case of PND as a result. She’s now getting more comprehensive care than she would have otherwise.”
Jane Collopy , Whole Life Naturopathy, Victoria
- Skills development in case taking specific to mental health presentations
- Review of the key phenotypes of major neurotransmitter imbalance and biological drivers
- Familiarisation and application of a range of mental health questionnaires – both traditional psychological ones and integrative ones
- Outline of the key pathology investigations & their interpretation in a mental health context
- Discussion of the key characteristics of successful treatment