I’m really glad that there is a big push in mental health awareness now. Especially when it comes to chronic conditions like diabetes. Dealing with a relentless demands of mimicking a working pancreas every day is hard work. As healthcare professionals, we are trained to analyse numbers in a patient. Improvement in numbers equates to successful management. Patients are labeled as non-compliant if numbers don’t improve. As a healthcare professional, this disappoints me. As a person with diabetes, this infuriates me.
Patients are people and their lives do extend beyond their chronic condition. It’s been said time and time again, but we need to remember to put health around the context of a person’s life. It is our job in healthcare to help each person to achieve their health goals. But we cannot neglect their mental wellbeing in the process.
There are no blood tests to reflect mental health status. Responses to screening tools are easily manipulated by those who know what is going on. So how can health professionals gauge what’s happening?
Ask and listen. Like really listen.
Listen in between the lines of what clients or patients are saying if you have to. A simple “how’s your day going” can open up important conversation and give you insight into their lives. Asking these questions before getting into the nitty gritty of diabetes or whatever they’re there to see you for can help you predict and shape your consult.
Don’t assume. Anything.
If you think something your client or patient has said could affect their self-management, clarify it. Then work with them to reach a compromise. That’s what we are here for. While we are armed with medical expertise, we need to recognise that our clients or patients are experts in their own lives. This is the essence of patient-centered care. And it is high time we put the “care” back in our roles as healthcare professionals.
Never judge. Ever.
Client or patient refusing to try something because they will are scared of what others will think of them? Be grateful they’ve even shared this intimate piece of info with you. Acknowledge what they’ve shared and don’t brush it off. Again – work with them towards a solution. Don’t expect people to change habits and behaviours overnight. It takes time, hard work and many set backs. But that’s okay, let them know it’s normal and you’re here to help them through those set backs too.
Most importantly, if you think that your client or patient could benefit from more help and support around their mental health, talk to them about it. It’s easier for you to bring it up than for them to ask for help. I dream of day where clinics are no longer seen as a scary environment but as a place of encouragement and support towards better health. Let’s do this!