When Jamal,* age 42, noticed that he was feeling sad and hopeless, losing interest in things he used to enjoy, and having trouble getting out of bed in the morning, he went to his family doctor for help. Jamal's family doctor, Dr. Adams, recognized Jamal's symptoms and diagnosed him with depression.
Thanks to an innovative relationship that Jamal's family doctor had with a team of mental health experts Jamal was able to continue seeing his family physician confident that he had the expertise and support he needed. Jamal had an entire team of professionals available to help him manage his depression. At the time Jamal was diagnosed with depression, Dr. Adams was participating in a pilot project with the Canadian Collaborative Mental Health Initiative (CCMHI). Dr. Adams was able to access the expertise of a team of health professionals, including specialists, pharmacists, and nurses. This way, Jamal had the convenience of having his care coordinated through his family doctor, and the confidence of knowing that Dr. Adams had access to a whole team of mental health professionals.
The first medication that Jamal tried for his depression left him with a distressing side effect - sexual dysfunction. It reached the point where Jamal no longer wanted to continue taking the medication. Jamal mentioned this problem to his pharmacist, Tim Jones, who worked with Dr. Adams to deal with the problem by switching to a different medication.
Although the new medication didn't cause sexual dysfunction, Jamal found that he was still experiencing symptoms of depression. One evening, he was feeling particularly low, and needed to talk with someone. Fortunately, his team had given him the number for a nurse who he could contact for support after hours. Jamal spoke to the nurse, who assessed his condition, provided him with emotional support, arranged for him to see Dr. Adams again, and made sure that Dr. Adams was aware of the situation. Before Jamal's next appointment, Dr. Adams consulted with Dr. Bell, the team psychiatrist, who lived in another city. The two developed a strategy for adjusting Jamal's medication. The new strategy helped, and Jamal was soon on his way to recovery.
Jamal's story illustrates some of the benefits of collaboration between family physicians and mental health teams - better coordinated, more efficient, and higher-quality care that is available within a person's own community. To find out more about the work of the CCMHI, visit their website.
* Note: The stories of Sarah, Jamal, and Roger are hypothetical stories based on the goals and vision of primary health care.
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