Mental health problems are becoming more common with each passing year in the United States. Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. lives with a mental health issue.

Only 43 percent of adults with mental illness receive medical attention. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding mental illness persists in the 21st century. Many people feel uncomfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings with their doctors.

In rural areas, many communities have few mental health professionals. More often than not, there are a few professionals for thousands of people. A skewed doctor-population ratio leads to long waiting times and a lower overall quality of patient treatment.

Primary care providers, including internists and family doctors, can play a significant role in helping ease the burden on mental health professionals.

In 2002, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended screening in primary care of the general adult population for depression. In 2016, the USPSTF recommended that primary care providers screen pregnant women and postpartum women for depression.

As a result of the USPSTF’s recommendation, many primary care doctors now perform depression screening tests during annual patient visits.

Patients are first asked to fill out a simple two-question form called the Patient Health Care Questionnaire- or PHQ-2. The questions included how often over the last 14 days, a) they felt depressed, down, or hopeless, and b) they lost interest in doing things.

After a patient fills out the PHQ-2, their primary care provider analyzes their response to calculate their score (between 1 and 6). If an individual’s score is three or higher, they may have depression.

Patients with high scores (>/=3) are asked to fill out a nine-question form known as the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 or PHQ-9. The questionnaire is designed to help primary care professionals gain a deeper understanding of their patients’ conditions.

Depending on a patient’s score and symptoms, their primary care doctor may recommend antidepressants or refer them for psychotherapy.

Primary care providers can help in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and emotional distress. A person with a more severe condition such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia will usually need to see a psychiatrist. Once the person’s condition stabilizes, their primary care doctor can assume a greater role.

Prompt diagnosis and early intervention in the early phase of a mental illness can significantly affect a person’s mental health.

Many people with mental health (especially those who share a personal bond with their primary care doctor) feel comfortable sharing their problems with their healthcare providers. A primary care doctor can play a crucial role in helping their patients with mental issues cope with their condition.

Are you looking for primary care doctors in Sonoma? Dr. Guy is one of the best doctors near you. He realizes the importance of empathy in healthcare. Dr. Guy leaves no stone unturned to build rapport with his patients. To make an appointment with him, call (707) 938-1255.