(MASON, Ohio) – Anxiety and depression continue to plague the nation following the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 40 percent of adults reporting recent symptoms of anxiety or depression. A shortage of mental health professionals has put Primary Care Providers (PCPs) on the front line of defense for their patients’ mental health issues. But a new national survey of PCPs by the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor finds 83 percent wish more of their patients would talk to them about their mental health concerns and more than half don’t believe patients know that PCPs are fully trained and equipped to diagnose and treat mental health conditions.
Regular mental health screenings at primary care appointments are the first step in bridging this communication gap and accurately diagnosing those suffering with anxiety, depression, ADHD and other mental health conditions. However, diagnosis is just the first step in what is often an uphill battle to find the right medications and dosage to effectively alleviate patients’ symptoms.
Michele Long, a nurse practitioner in Lancaster, Ohio, uses the GeneSight test to reduce the mental health medication trial-and-error process, which provides her with a report indicating FDA-approved medications and dosages that are more likely to be effective based on a patient’s genetic information.
“Finding effective treatment can be a very frustrating process for patients and they often feel defeated when a medication fails,” Long said. “The GeneSight test takes a lot of the guesswork out of the process so I can help them feel better sooner. It’s a valuable tool that helps me find solutions for those who have entrusted me with caring for their mental health.”
“There’s a communication gap between the patient and the clinician. PCPs are looking to their patients to bring up their mental health issues, and patients are looking for their providers to recognize their mental health challenges,” said Fred Fantazzia, general manager of Myriad Mental Health, makers of the GeneSight test. “Opening those lines of communication is critical as more people experience mental health issues and there are fewer mental health specialists to treat them.”
Despite the success that those like Long have seen in patients using the GeneSight test, the survey found that less than one in five PCPs use available genetic tests to help inform their mental health medication treatment plans.