Via The Globe and Mail: Mental-health groups to unveil PTSD course for doctors. Excerpt:
Richard Chenier had a breakdown in 1971 when, as a young RCMP officer working on the outskirts of Winnipeg, he answered a call to find his mentor on the ground bleeding from a bullet wound that had penetrated his head through his eye socket.
Over the next 34 years, Mr. Chenier was admitted to hospital as a mental patient eight times, always after weeks of nightmares about Constable Harry Seigel’s violent death. He saw countless doctors and psychiatrists. Some said he was depressed, some said he had bipolar disorder, and some attributed his troubles to the alcohol he started drinking after the shooting.
It wasn’t until 2006, when he was attending a conference on mental illness, that a prominent psychiatrist from Alberta said “you have PTSD. I want you to get some help.” They were words that changed Mr. Chenier’s life.
But other Canadians with post-traumatic stress disorder – military personnel, veterans, police officers, first responders, battered spouses, children raised in abusive homes – may never be properly diagnosed because, like the doctors who treated Mr. Chenier, many family physicians simply don’t know the signs.
On Thursday, The Mood Disorders Society of Canada, the Canadian Depression Research and Intervention Network (CDRIN), and the Canadian Medical Association will announce a new federally funded course for doctors to help them identify and treat PTSD – the disorder that has been associated with a recent spate of soldier suicides.
“Eighty-five per cent of people who present with mental-health problems, including PTSD, present to their family physician,” said Mr. Chenier, now the project manager for the Mood Disorders Society. “Family physicians do not have the tools or the time, in a lot of cases, to deal with it – or even to diagnose it.”
Phil Upshall, the executive director of the Mood Disorder Society and a co-director of CDRIN, said it is apparent to him that most family physicians are not fully prepared to deal with the vast range of mental-health issues.
When a well-attended roundtable of mental-health stakeholders was asked in 2006 to name the biggest obstacle to mental-health treatment, the top response was the lack of training for general practitioners, Mr. Upshall said. “The signs and diagnostic tools for even the simplest mental-health issues were skimmed over in their training” and, for many years, the medical community was unwilling to acknowledge its deficiencies, he said.
I suspect our understanding of mental-health issues is roughly similar to what we understood about infection control before Semmelweiss.