Health care is an important element in the life of any individual. Access to medical services not only provides one with a sense of well being, but prevents any fatalities arising from medical emergencies. Preventable ailments can be diagnosed and treated thus reducing the cost and effects of treating a full blown illness. Primary health care is the most available form of medical attention received by most patients.
Mental health care has only recently been underscored. There are very few specialists who deal with mental health. Most people who visit medical facilities do so when their physical health deteriorates. However, very little attention is paid to mental health. Mental illnesses are hard to diagnose and therefore largely go untreated. Even when diagnosed there are very few specialists to tackle the issue and limited access to drugs as well as care.
Primary health care concentrates mainly on the physical attributes of medicine such as diagnosis, treatment, dressing and surgery. The psychological part of the health and other social parts are glazed over and therefore there is a great likelihood that factors affecting the psyche of an individual are easy to miss.
The task of dealing with mental health care rests majorly with primary health care providers. This however according to the medical profession is beyond their scope and steps are being taken to integrate mental health care into primary care.
There are several barriers for patients seeking mental health care. These include stigma, shortage of mental health service providers, misdiagnosis, cost, lack of information on mental illnesses among others. Insurance companies are also reluctant to take in people with chronic illness. Substance abuse also leads to or aggravates mental illness.
Stigma associated with mental illness is a major deterrent in mental health care. Parents with children who exhibit symptoms of mental illness are reluctant to seek medical attention. Some may cite expensive costs as the reason but most ignore the signs and chalk it down to children’s illnesses and tendencies to be truant. Research shows that about fourteen to twenty per cent of adolescents and children have mental illness but only one in four of these is diagnosed and treated. Stigma is more widespread in rural areas. The low self esteem associated with mental illness deters people from seeking medical attention. Addressing the problem at an early age will reduce greatly the number of adults suffering from mental illness. The government should conduct clinics to educate the communities about the importance of mental health and encourage them to seek medical attention should they detect any of the symptoms.
The number of mental health service providers is greatly limited as compared to the number of people who require their services. Only psychiatrist and advance practice nurses can prescribe medication for mental illness. Fewer hours than are required per patient per illness are grossly limited. Solutions to this problem include offering scholarships and perks to make the profession more lucrative to young professionals joining the medical profession.
Another difficulty in mental health care is the difficulty in relating physical illnesses and mental illness. Primary healthcare concentrates on physical health. A person suffering physical illness may not associate the symptoms as part of a mental illness. This will lead to a long incubation period before diagnosis which probably aggravates the illness.
Cost is a major restraint in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. Primary healthcare is considered affordable and the underserved citizens can access it. On the other hand mental health is more difficult to access since there are very few specialists and who have limited time to deal with the large number of patients.
Substance abuse may lead to or aggravate the risk of mental illness. Seventy per cent of people who visit primary healthcare facilities either have suffered drug addiction which led to mental illness. Others suffer withdrawal symptoms after they have experimented with drugs. The depression leads to suicidal tendencies and other serious illnesses. Treating these comorbidities proves a great challenge.