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Opinion

A change of heart and a change of mind

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Mental health is a widespread epidemic in our generation. Psychology is an ever-changing and advancing field, and has been taking big steps at a rapid pace. Out of this, concerns over stress levels of youth and young adults have risen. A UBCO professor, Lesley Lutes, has formed a trial mental health-only clinic at the UBC Okanagan campus. According to Lutes, speaking in an interview with CBC, about six in every 10 walk-in medical visits are about mental health. I have to agree in that; the last time I went to a walk-in appointment, it was about mental health.

I think other steps need to be taken as well, though. There is still so much stigma surrounding mental health that I feel people are more likely to choose to go directly to general clinics because it feels more anonymous than going to Fraser Health for a screening.

I can recall feeling uncomfortable at 16 as I walked into a Fraser Health mental health centre with my parent. I had a hard time going through a screening because I knew my parent would know all about it. Even though I got help that time, I left with so much anxiety that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go again. Getting help is always the hardest first step in mental health treatment. Having a fear of people not understanding or judging you for it stops people, like me, from seeking help.

There needs to be a change in the understanding of mental health before we create clinics that specialize in mental health. Having mental health-only clinics could assist in eradicating the long waits in regular health clinics, but only if people feel comfortable going to them.

Progressing forward, mental health-focused clinics will become more important and needed as the stigma fades. Right now, as a society, we are still in the steps of spreading awareness and understanding. I consider myself to be very open about my struggles, but I still choose not to discuss my mental health sometimes because not everyone is comfortable with it.

A mental health-focused clinic has great benefits in that one can streamline getting help in an efficient way and not take up waiting room space in general clinics, which are often over-filled and difficult to get appointments for. There is a shortage of doctors in general clinics, as evidenced by how incredibly difficult it is to get a family doctor, or an appointment at general clinics. I had to make an appointment three weeks ahead of time with my family doctor and even then, when it came time for my appointment, I had to wait another hour before actually going in to see him.

Mental health clinics would and will be great to have in the future and I look forward to seeing how they make an impact on our health care system. In the meantime, let’s focus on spreading the awareness of mental health issues, so that the mental health-focused clinics can have full effect as they become popularized. After all, you only get out what you put in.

Image: Cory Jensen/The Cascade

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