Doctors, universities start treating mental health like physical health

Dr. Pat Blumenthal - KATU photo

Treating mental health is growing in importance.

Doctors and universities are realizing that mental health should be treated just like physical health, as it is just as important.

“Mental health issues really do impact everyone, everywhere,” Dr. Pat Blumenthal, the director of behavioral health at The Portland Clinic, said.

The Portland Clinic changed its approach to behavioral health within the last five years. Practitioners started noticing a concerning trend, and realized they needed to take action.

"Patients that they were seeing were presenting with a lot of different issues that they hadn't seen before, more depression, more anxiety,” Blumenthal said.

The clinic now offers behavioral health services to patients in addition to physical health services. During appointments, before the blood pressure tests and the measurements, patients fill out multiple forms. The responses help practitioners identify potential mental health battles or illnesses.

"People are often more comfortable writing down their responses than talking about them," Blumenthal said.

According to the National Institute on Mental Illness (NAMI), the average delay between the onset of mental illness symptoms and when someone gets help or intervention is eight to ten years.

By focusing more on mental health, the hope is more patients suffering will be found sooner.

It’s a similar goal at The University of Portland.

"You know, college is a really stressful time,” Matthew Rygg, an associate vice president for student development at UP, said.

The university recently rebranded its health center. It's now the Student Health and Counseling Center instead of just the Student Health Center.

“We really want students to know that it's not just a place that we treat the physical health, but that we also recognize and treat the mental health,” Rygg explained.

UP also launched a new mental health resource for students last year. The university realized more students were in need of help after health and counseling center closed for the day.

The university now uses ProtoCall, a non-profit that helps with mental health triage and support. Students can now access the service when the health and counseling center is closed, like later at night and on the weekends.

It's all about putting the same stress on mental health as physical health, at the doctor's office, at school and in life.

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