Author: Dr. Sarah Mischo, DMD
I am not a mental health professional. I have no formal training in counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, psychopharmacology, or any other behavioral health discipline. The last time I sat in a classroom and discussed human psychology was my freshman year of college, almost a dozen years ago. So I’m definitely not an expert on mental health, but I do have a lifetime of experience living with, growing with, and loving, wonderful friends and family who happen to live with various mental health conditions.
Recently, a friend of mine shared an article from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) titled “What Mental Health Care Can Learn from Dental Health Care Strategies” that really hit home for me. I won’t try to summarize the whole article here (I highly encourage you to read it for yourself at the link below), but it does a wonderful job outlining the ways in which dentistry has pivoted over the last several centuries from a “problem-based” to a “prevention-based” profession that highlights healthy habits, routine checkups, and early intervention to address most dental problems before they ever cause serious symptoms (and often before a patient even fully realizes there is a problem occurring).
As mental health care becomes more available and less stigmatized, our nation’s behavioral health system is undergoing a similar transition, moving toward a future where routine mental health checkups are just as common as an annual physical or biannual dental cleaning. For now, however, the average time between a person’s first mental health symptoms and their first mental health care intervention is an astounding 11 years, which is far too long.
So, to anyone who is facing mental health challenges of any sort, please reach out early to friends and family, but also to a mental health professional. And, for everyone, if you happen to have three extra minutes on your hands, give “What Mental Health Care Can Learn from Dental Health Care Strategies” a read here.
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