N Touch
Tuesday 12 November 2019
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Letters to the Editor

Working together to improve mental health

THE EDITOR: Having recently observed World Mental Health Day on October 10, I cannot help but examine the state of mental health provision in TT in light of recent events in our country.

As a clinical psychologist, I have had the opportunity over the years to work alongside psychiatry to offer comprehensive behavioural interventions that have facilitated effective treatment outcomes.

However, this model has not been adopted as best practice in many health centres and we continue to see treatments to people with mental illness being done in isolation, which limits the effectiveness of those treatments.

Unfortunately, TT has historically seen psychiatry as the primary treatment model to address mental illness. This view needs to be revised in both policy and practice, as psychology has been shown to be a crucial component in mental health services. Psychiatrists in this country should not be automatically considered to be the only responders to treat with mental illness.

Currently, I work in the US for a hospitalist company that employs various medical specialties including psychology and psychiatry. There has been a recent shift in how these services are delivered to patients.

Behavioural health is being highlighted and every provider, regardless of specialty, is trained to administer depression screenings during initial patient visits. In my opinion, this is a game-changer and cannot be emphasised enough.

People who suffer from depression are rarely going to present at a psychologist’s or at a psychiatrist’s office. Most people will go to a physician about a medical issue and, if asked, might admit to feeling sad or being depressed.

Can you imagine if the medical doctor referred that person to a psychologist or a psychiatrist for an immediate follow-up? That person would be treated sooner and would subsequently have a better prognosis.

In my opinion, if TT adopts a similar approach we will see treatment teams of physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists working together to provide comprehensive treatments.

Why aren’t there psychologists in all the Regional Health Authorities? Or better yet, why aren’t there psychology departments? That’s right. Not just one or two psychologists for an entire facility, but instead psychology departments dedicated to working with the various departments in the hospital to address the various needs of patients.

This final point is directed to psychologists in TT who conduct their services in isolation. Traditionally, we have done a poor job of describing and promoting the numerous services that we can provide. We cannot expect the general public to understand what we do if we do not define the narrative ourselves.

Work with the TT Association of Psychologists, the organisation charged with advancing the profession, as it continues to educate the public about psychology and the role that psychologists can play in contributing to the wellness of the citizens of the nation.

SEAN STEPHENS

clinical psychologist

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