Monday, July 9, 2012

Time for a checkup

Children have pediatricians that they see every year or so of their lives. The receive preventative care. After all, it would be ludicrous to never send your kid to the doctor until something went wrong. Adults also get checkups yearly to make sure everything is in good working order.

This is all for physical ailments. What about psychological ones? Why do we wait until the situation is dire until we see a mental health professional?

Any researcher or clinician will tell you that millions of people are walking around with undiagnosed mental illnesses or subclinical symptoms. These people could benefit hugely from a simple half hour check in with a psychologist.

Why don't we have psychological check ups, the same way we have physical checkups? This would be hugely beneficial in multiple ways. One, it would aid in the identification of people who are at risk for or who are developing serious mental illnesses, like depression or schizophrenia. Two, it would help those with less severe illnesses or personality disorders, who could benefit from a few therapy sessions or group therapy. Three, it would aid in the norming of the population-part of the problem in psychology is that there is no clear definition of healthy. This may also prevent over diagnosing, as the clinician wouldn't be operating on the assumption that simply because a patient walks in, there's something very wrong. Four, it would be a way to refer children who are at risk of developing into a potential problem to get help. Five, it would be another way to identify children who are in risky or unsafe situations. And six, it would reduce the stigma of seeing a psychologist in the first place.

And, of course, it would give all those psychologists who are being churned out of graduate schools a secure job.

Everyone knows physical health is important. So is mental health, and preventative care is something that should exist.

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