is a website intended to be a central mental health resource for primary care physicians, various mental health workers, and patients. It covers a range of mental health topics and provides direct links to useful handouts, worksheets, workbooks, and book recommendations for patients and their families, as well as guides for the primary care provider. **Disclaimer**

What is primary care?
Primary care is the first level of care and the initial point of contact that a patient has with the health system. It is the “medical home” for a patient, ideally providing continuity and integration of health care. The aims of primary care are to provide the patient with a broad spectrum of care, both preventive and curative, over a period of time and to coordinate all of the care the patient receives.

What is primary care psychology?
Primary care psychology is the provision of health and mental health services in the primary care setting that includes the prevention of disease and the promotion of healthy behaviors in individuals, families, and communities.

The following values are espoused by primary care psychology:

  • Generalism
  • An integrative, biopsychosocial orientation
  • An awareness that resources are limited and must be managed effectively
  • A perspective on psychopathology that searches for and builds on existing competencies
  • Attentiveness to opportunities for educational and preventive interventions
  • A population-based perspective
  • Why is psychology important in primary care?

    (1) Primary care patient populations have significant psychological needs:

  • Mental health problems rank 2nd in impact on disability.
  • 60% of physician visits by patients present with no physical illness or psychological problems exacerbate illness.
  • (2) Access to specialty mental health care is limited

  • A large number of patients will refuse referral to a mental health professional.
  • Between 1/3 to 1/2 of primary care patients referred to mental health specialist do not experience a first visit.
  • Stigma and cost are barriers to seeking specialty mental health services.
  • (3) It makes sense to treat psychological disorders where treatment is sought:

  • Majority of patients with psychological disorders see primary care physicans at minimum once per year.
  • Patients receive psychological services more often during their primary care visits than specialty mental health.
  • (4) More services would be delivered to more people:

  • Mental health care delivered in primary care helps to access patients who could benefit from behavioural health care but would otherwise not seek treatment.
  • Referrals to another setting are followed through 15% of the time, whereas it is 90% follow-through for an onsite behavioural/mental health provider.
  • (5) Mental health treatment in primary care may help improve physical problems or its treatment:

  • Perceived or actual physical health might improve.
  • Treatment adherence, comorbid psychological problems, and lifestyle modification are all areas in which psychology can help.
  • There may be a potential for reducing overall health care costs as either psychological or physical problems improve.
    Why a primary care psychology website?
    In keeping with the value of efficiency in primary care, it is the hope that a central mental health resource will contribute to efficient and effective health care for common psychological complaints in primary care settings.

    This website and its contents are also data-driven:

    A survey* of 115 health care providers, including physicians, community mental health workers, nurses, and paraprofessionals, revealed that the majority were likely to access a mental health website and print handouts for patients from a trusted website. Specifically, 74.7% were either “somewhat likely”, “likely”, or “very likely” to access a mental health website (41.7% endorsed “likely” or “very likely”) and 68.7% were at least “somewhat likely” to print handouts from a website for their clients (44.4% were “likely” to “very likely”).

    The top 10 mental health topics these health care providers listed as being of interest to their patients were as follows:

    1. Depression (86.1%)
    2. Anxiety (80%)
    3. Stress management (76.5%)
    4. Coping with a family member’s mental illness (71.3%) / Healthy relationships (71.3%)
    5. Self-esteem (70.4%)
    6. Drug/alcohol use (67.8%)
    7. Pain management (67%) / Suicide (67%)
    8. Grief (65.2%)
    9. Anger management (59.1%)
    10. Illness adjustment (58.3%)

    *Special thanks to the Interlake Regional Health Authority for their permission to post these results.