Closing the Blind Spot

Kauai is a wonderful place to talk about stress, primarily because it is difficult to have any while you are there.  Last week I went to the Garden Isle to present my lecture on stress illness to clinicians of a variety of specialties from the Pierce County (Washington State including Tacoma & Mt Rainer) Medical Society.  They asked a number of thoughtful questions.  They were clearly interested in diagnosing stress illness but felt the need for greater support from mental health clinicians (MHCs) than was available in their community.  This referred to the limited number of MHCs and also to MHCs experience evaluating patients with unexplained physical symptoms.

This is a common dilemma that I attempted to address at the When Stress Causes Pain conference in Los Angeles on March 27.  I taught an audience composed primarily of MHCs how to do Stress Check-Ups.  This consists of learning the chronology of a patient’s illness and then doing a Stress History (see other posts tagged with this label by clicking below).  This process often reveals the source of the patient’s symptoms.  I urged the MHCs, once they felt comfortable doing this, to reach out to the medical clinicians in their community and offer this service.

The stigma of referring a patient with a physical illness to a MHC has long been a barrier, but referring for a Stress Check-Up does not imply mental illness and should be more comfortable for everyone.  We can’t bring everyone with stress illness to a beach hotel on Kauai, but routinely available Stress Check-Ups might be the next best thing.

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