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Mental Health First Aid program in India among others promote and educate public on mental health professionals and what services they can provide. It helps public in seeking services by appropriate recognised professionals, thereby avoiding worsening of the mental health problems and cut off the costs.

In this connection, we have reached out to one of the most senior medical doctor practicing in Chennai for more than five decades now, Dr. Prakash N. Patel MBBS, DTMH (Liv), FCGP, FCIP.

Question: Why should people or families visit and have a General practitioner?

It is important for an individual or a family to have a General Practitioner (GP) because a visit to the GP saves time and money for trivial illnesses and GP is more familiar with such day to day illnesses. To be familiar with a GP also helps in emergency situations as he can tackle an acute health problem at one's home, and if needed can refer the patient to the right hospital or consultant for further management of the illness. Accessing a GP shows a positive culture of addressing health problems at early stages avoiding to become serious issues.

Question: The important role of the GP in the early identification of health problems in general as well as mental illnesses.

In today's world, mental stress, especially in education system and work places, is large and it is here that a family GP is able to pinpoint early the signs and symptoms and hence is able to help by providing initial talking and counselling and if needed, some medication. Most GPs are able to treat stressful ailments and provide initial help and refer to the right specialist if required. General Practitioner’s role is important for the Physical and Mental Health of the society. On a long run, a GP becomes a friend of the family and knows the physical and mental health conditions of every member of the family.

Questions: How important is addressing of mental health issues just like physical health problems. 

Although I have specialised in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, I am in General Practice for the last 54 years. In my practice as a G P, I have become more than a doctor to my patients. I have become a friend, philosopher and guide to them and members of their families. Knowing my patients’ physical and mental health history has built trust and as a result they come to me, not just for any illness, but confide in me their personal problems. People tend to avoid report mental health problems with the same easiness as physical health problem. However, a GP can understand the presence of signs and symptoms of common mental health problems. This is where a GP like me who is a friend of the family can help in early identification of emotional and mental health problems. In this way a GP can help in preventing mental stress and other common mental health problems at early stages. There is a connection between physical health and mental health. One can’t enjoy wellbeing without both physical and mental health being addressed equally.

Key message: Create the good habit of attending a general practitioner for yourself and your family. Exercise regularly and pay an equal attention to mental health just like physical health.

01 Nov 2018