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August 11, 2023

How Healthcare Providers Can Support Mental Health For Patients

It’s a question worth asking: What can physicians and other healthcare providers do to support their patients’ mental health? And are there ways to identify underlying mental health issues? Remember, patients may have a myriad of complex physical health concerns, but there could be underlying mental health issues as well, and there’s a clear connection between the two

Dietitians, primary care providers, cancer specialists, etc., and even people outside the direct medical environment, like caseworkers or program administrators, can improve patient outcomes if they dedicate themselves to meeting individuals exactly where they are, not just functionally, but emotionally and socially as well. 

6 Ways Providers Can Support Mental Health For Patients

Healthcare providers who want to help their patients manage their mental health should consider implementing the following habits into their practice: 

1. Slow down. 

Healthcare professionals tend to move quickly. Their routine and even their knowledge becomes second-nature to them, but if they can intentionally slow down, they can really notice and hear their patients, and disseminate valuable information more effectively.  

2. Listen deeply. 

Providers should practice listening to their patients, engaging, asking questions, and paying attention to body language. They may not be aware or conscious of it, but doctors and caregivers can blow past important albeit subtle personal information when they don’t listen.

3. Trust the patient. 

Patients are the experts on their own bodies, their own lives. That’s the house they live in, so to speak, so there needs to be a level of trust from providers. They shouldn’t write off patient experiences, whether advertently or inadvertently. 

4. Embrace the whole person. 

This requires providers to expand their perspective, taking a more holistic view of health vs. being strictly symptom-driven. In other words, their patients are more than the sum of all their symptoms.

5. Ask tough questions and have hard conversations. 

Whether it’s their busy schedule or just general discomfort, sometimes providers don’t ask the difficult questions, even when there is evidence of an underlying problem. If they don’t ask, they’ll never know. Examples of questions to ask include: 

  1. “Are you feeling depressed?”
  2. “Are you feeling hopeless?”
  3. “Are you having thoughts of suicide?”

6. Outsource help from others.

Providers don’t have to know everything, but they can always direct patients to another provider who can help, or at least provide a resource. Sometimes, it’s not about having an immediate answer. It’s about walking with the patient through their discomfort, confusion, or despair.

Prioritize Mental Health!

Any child or adult who is intimate with the healthcare system, whether it’s someone who uses our Central Line Vest and/or LOCK 3000 or not, knows how painful and even dangerous it can be to have a healthcare provider who treats you as a case and not a person. Even with busy schedules and enormous workloads, which are a reality of working in healthcare, it’s the providers’ responsibility to prioritize mental health and well-being. They begin to do that when they slow down, listen, trust, embrace the whole person, question, and ask for help.

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