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Prioritizing Mental Health Like Physical Health

In the last couple years, the stigma around mental health has changed drastically. People have been more comfortable sharing their struggles with mental health and progress has been made in treating it, similar to physical health.

Here in northeast Michigan, there are mental health care resources right in the middle of some centers, including in the Alcona Health Center and in West Branch. Prioritizing mental health care has been treated on a similar level to physical health.

“In a lot of their different offices, they have therapists that are right there, and I think that’s a really, one of the best models, is to have all of the providers working together fairly equally,” said MyMichigan Behavioral Health Service Line Director Kathy Dollard.

If MyMichigan or a primary care physician cannot help someone with a mental health issue, they can refer them to a community mental health center, due to their strong working relationship.

“We also need to partner with providers in our communities, and sometimes that other provider does it better than what we could do, and we just need to support them,” said Dollard.

Diagnosing a physical ailment and beginning treatment is much more straightforward than diagnosing and treating a mental health ailment. Some of that gray area can be challenging to navigate.

“Being a psychologist, for me, that would be kind of a front line, but there are sometimes when a person really needs medication in order to have enough motivation, and that they’re able to think clear enough, and able to really be at a point where they can take advantage of that cognitive behavioral therapy,” said Dollard.

As the stigma around mental health continues to change for multiple reasons, there are a lot of encouraging signs that it will continue to be a priority.

“I think there’s a lot of optimism, but there are challenges still that we have, so I hope that in the future, we’ll see the needle moving, because I do think that people – I know our health system is paying attention to it,” said Dollard.

The MyMichigan Medical Center in Alpena is working on getting a behavioral health expert in their building.