A new University of Cambridge study featuring input from doctors around the globe concludes that every person should get their mental health status checked just as regularly as they do their physical health status.
As the Detroit Free Press reports, doctors assert that making mental health checkups just as routine as physicals would spare patients from developing more disruptive and costly ailments in the future, and reduce the societal stigmas associated with receiving such care:
“Unfortunately, most people don’t address mental health issues until they are drastically interfering with their lives,” said Dr. Nizar El-Khalili, medical director of Alpine Clinic in Lafayette, Ind. “If they were just more aware of mental health from the start, problems could be avoided long before it complicates their lives and costs them thousands of dollars.”
Mental health screenings can be administered during most annual checkups. Some doctors always screen their patient’s mental health, but El-Khalili recommends that all patients, no matter their age or family medical history, ask for a screening during their checkup. [...]
Along with improving quality of life and saving money, health professionals say annual mental checkups would help reduce the stigma attached to mental illness.
The doctors’ calls for more regular mental health screenings echo that of mental health advocacy organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Vulnerable populations such as the poor and LGBT Americans are disproportionately affected by mental health problems, and the combined effects of stigmatizing mental health care and the high transaction costs of pursuing such care keeps the vast majority of Americans — including those with serious mental illnesses — from getting treatment.
Insurance benefits for physical and mental health issues technically have legal parity, thanks to the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. But the implementation of the law has been messy and poorly enforced, with many basic questions regarding its provisions left unanswered.