04/07/2013 11:10 EDT | Updated 06/08/2013 05:12 EDT

Like Bodies, Minds Need Regular Check-Ups

brain anatomy cross section

It is something we are often reminded to do, meet with our general practitioners on a regular basis to prevent terminal or debilitating illnesses. At the very least we could potentially catch the early onset of illnesses so we could have them treated as soon as possible to prevent them from getting worse. What's often forgotten by us, but by our doctors too, is that our mind is part of our body.

My doctor undoubtedly knows of my mental illness and is frequently inquiring about my mental state when I see her. Other than that, she doesn't examine my mind in the same way she examines my body. I'm not proposing she do a biopsy on my brain each time but doing something more in-depth then asking me "Have you had any suicidal thoughts lately?" might be better for me, but it will ultimately enhance my medical records if there was more information in them than "On April 2, patient is not suicidal."

I understand that my doctor is only a general practitioner and there are better trained and more qualified professionals to examine and treat my mental illness. The truth is my mental illness is chronic; it is life long. While I will have my good days and my bad days, my good years and my bad years I wish my doctor would acknowledge my mental illness is never going away. Therefore I believe she must treat it the same way she would treat any other illness that has the potential to go into remission.

In December, I asked my doctor to refer me to a therapist in my community that is funded through the public healthcare system. My doctor immediately inquired, as she should as to whether or not things were OK with me. I truthfully told her things were just fine but it had been almost a year since my last therapy session and I needed that confirmation that things were still OK. At the same time I was feeling a little moody and more anxious than usual and urged her to refer me for a mental health checkup.

I told my doctor that I wanted to see the therapist for the same reason I see my family doctor every few months. While I'm relatively healthy I still like seeing her to get my vitals checked, get my blood work checked and so on. A couple times my doctor has caught minor things that have required treatment, and here I thought I was seeing her for nothing. Therefore, isn't there a potential the therapist might catch something that could improve my mental state and/or quality of life and ultimately prevent a mental health crisis?

Last week the therapist's office called getting more information about the referral from my doctor and then said, "I don't get it Arthur. You're feeling OK but you still want to meet with a therapist? Almost everybody comes to therapy when they're in a crisis." The truth is that I want to prevent a mental health crisis. My last mental health crisis changed my life in the most negative of ways. I don't know if/when my next crisis will be but I want to take every measure possible to stall or even prevent one.

Health care costs eat up a lot of our tax dollars and a lot emphasis is being put on us to have our bodies examined and tested on a regular basis. It's not only good for our bodies, but also its good for our wallets. Surely meeting with a taxpayer-funded therapist must be a heck of a lot cheaper then spending time in an acute psychiatric facility, if it can be prevented. At the same time it is just common sense to have a healthy mind to prevent the onset of a mental health crisis. Far too many times mental illness takes people by surprise and are shocked to be diagnosed with it, yet when they do they acknowledge they weren't feeling well. Maybe it's stigma, maybe its something else but as a society we fail to acknowledge our mind plays a role as to the condition of our physical state.

I encourage everybody reading my blog to talk to his or her doctor about having a mental examination. It could change your life!

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