President's Message

Guillaume Charbonneau, MD, CCFP, FCFP

Making a difference in mental health

Mental health is an important component of family medicine. With the first week of October being Mental Illness Awareness Week in Canada and October 10th being World Mental Health Day, I want to acknowledge the role family physicians play in this essential aspect of care.

Family physicians are well positioned to help individuals experiencing mental health and addiction issues not only due to our expertise, but also because of the relationships we build with patients. In my experience, the rapport that family doctors build with their patients often helps them feel safe in talking about mental health issues. Because of our ongoing relationships, we also may be able to identify cases where a physical complaint may have a psychological basis, thus allowing us to develop the most effective care plan possible.

Treatment related to mental health can be complex and challenging, yet I have found that my clinical practice in this area is also the most rewarding. Accompanying a patient on this difficult journey forges an even deeper sense of trust and understanding. It is the best reward a family doctor can receive for their work.

To add to your patient care tool box the College partnered with the Mental Health Commission of Canada to produce our new Best Advice guide, Recovery-Oriented Mental Health and Addiction Care in the Patient’s Medical Home. It has helpful strategies for reducing stigma in your practice, developing personalized care plans, using appropriate language, making mental health discussions a standard part of appointments, and much more. The guide will be released later this month, so please check the College website so you can download a copy. I recommend sharing it with your entire team, as everyone on staff in a family practice can benefit from it.

As a final thought, we should all keep in mind that mental health is a concern for everyone, including family physicians. We all play a role in eliminating stigma, increasing awareness, and creating a healthier and more compassionate environment for our patients, colleagues, and communities.

 

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