Can I See My Primary Care Provider For Mental Health Concerns?

Many patients become uncomfortable when it comes down to talking about their mental health concerns. The stigma attached to showing weakness stemming from mental health is still prevalent today. You are most certainly not alone with dealing with mental illnesses. A study conducted by Mental Health America revealed that “19.00% of adults are experiencing a mental illness. Equivalent to over 47 million Americans”.

If you believe you are one of those 47 million Americans, it's best if you face these mental challenges head-on before your symptoms potentially get worse. With the pandemic putting a lot of unnecessary stress on many Americans, many mental health clinics are becoming too booked to accept new patients. Have no fear, did you know your primary care provider (PCP) can help manage your mental health? Your PCP is most often the best medical resource to begin with.

The American Academy of Family Physicians defined primary care as “the provision of integrated, accessible health care services by physicians and their health care teams who are accountable for addressing a large majority of personal health care needs, developing a sustained partnership with patients, and practicing in the context of family and community.” The majority of primary care providers are trained to treat the whole person; your mind body and soul.

Can I talk to my primary care doctor about my mental health

Do not feel embarrassed to talk about your mental health to your doctor. Your doctor most likely has heard it all by now, so that’s a great feeling to know they may have experience with what you are going through. Your doctor will also appreciate you speaking up about something that is bothering you, so they can make a care plan that will benefit you the most.

When should I visit my primary care doctor about my mental health

Every mental health illness has its own set of varying conditions, but most of them overlap. Let’s take a look at some of the common overlapping conditions:

  • Ongoing headaches
  • Feeling sad, empty, hopeless
  • Upset stomach
  • Incessant worry
  • Concentration and memory problems
  • Irritability, anger or aggressiveness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Extreme  mood changes
  • Withdrawal from friends  or activities
  • Fatigue, inability to  sleep or sleeping too much
  • Alcohol  or drug abuse
  • Persistent, frightening thoughts
  • Feeling detached or numb

If you believe that you may have one or more of the above symptoms, let’s explore how your visit with a Cross Valley Health & Medicine provider would go as they begin to address your mental health concerns.

How will my doctor diagnose my mental health concerns

For a more specific case, our own Dr. Paul Saladino or Christian Plaza, FNP will begin your visit by asking you several mental health-related questions to see where you stand mentally. The more common questions come from two screening verbal tests called the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ9) and the Generalized Anxiety Disorder Assessment (GAD-7).

The PHQ9, according to the University of Washington AIMS Center, is defined as “the nine-item depression scale of the patient health questionnaire. It is one of the most validated tools in mental health and be a powerful tool to assist clinicians with diagnosing depression and monitoring treatment response”. You will be asked, by either Dr. Paul Saladino or Christian Plaza, FNP, a series of nine questions that you will be then asked to answer each question by saying “not at all”, “several days”, “more than half the days” or “nearly every day.” Depending on how you answer the PHQ9 will give your provider a “score” that will then assist him or her in figuring out what is your depression severity.  The results of your PHQ9 assessment does not necessarily mean you have depression, but rather there may be signs that showcase depression-like symptoms.

The GAD-7 is a screening tool to measure the severity of a patient’s generalized anxiety disorder. If Dr. Paul Saladino or Christian Plaza, FNP sees signs that you may have anxiety, they may administer this seven questionnaire to you during your visit. After your provider asks you the question, you respond the same way as in the PHQ9 whereas “not at all”, “several days”, “more than half the days” or “nearly every day.” Depending on how you answer these questions as well will give your provider an idea of how severe your anxiety is from minimal, mild, moderate, or severe. Combining both the PHQ9 and GAD-7 questionnaires are great first steps your provider will take in your mental health care plan to begin your journey to recovery.

I don’t feel comfortable talking to my doctor yet, what should I do

Talking to someone outside of your friends and family can be the hardest step of your mental health recovery journey. If you do not feel comfortable talking to your doctor, therapist or other medical professionals yet, there are plenty of resources out there to help. See the below list of some commonly used hotlines and phone numbers for mental health resources:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via phone and online chat.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline

Hotline: 1 (800) 950 – 6264 Email: Available Monday through Friday, 10:00am to 6:00pm Eastern Standard Time.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Helpline

Hotline: 1 (800) 662 – 4357 Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via phone in English and Spanish

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender National Hotline

Hotline: 1 (888) 843 – 4564 Youth Talkline: 1 (800) 246 – 7743 Senior Helpline: 1 (888) 234 – 7243

Cross Valley Health & Medicine is a primary care practice located in Newburgh NY, allowing for both virtual and in-person appointments. The practice has two medical providers on staff, a medical doctor who is dual board-certified in Addiction Medicine and Internal Medicine and a family nurse practitioner. Both providers are eager to see new patients for the following programs: Addiction Medicine, Behavioral Health Management, HIV/AIDS Care Management, Internal Medicine, Medical Marijuana Certifications, Medication-Assisted Treatment, STDI/STI Care Management, and Weight Loss Management. If you are interested in becoming a patient of Cross Valley, please click here to access our online paperwork portal.