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Categories: Behavioral Health

Honesty, open communication are crucial for your mental health

Ryan Gilbert, MD, and Vicky Peterkin, MSW-LISW-CP

Most relationship experts agree that the key to any healthy relationship is a foundation built on honesty and communication. Whether it be with your partner, your children, or a good friend, problems always appear when people keep secrets, withhold the truth, or bottle up their thoughts and feelings on critical issues.

Honesty and communication are also essential when it comes to building a successful partnership with your primary care provider (PCP). When you fail to disclose health problems you are experiencing, especially challenges with your mental health, it can interfere with your provider’s ability to deliver quality care, producing negative health care outcomes.

Without open and honest dialogue about a patient’s mental health, PCPs don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle to address medical problems, which can lead to additional and unnecessary testing, misdiagnosis, and ineffective treatments. This may ultimately cost the patient more time, more money, and most important, their well-being.

So why are some patients reluctant to talk to their PCP about their mental health? Some reasons might include:

Embarrassment or a fear of judgment — While attitudes toward and care for mental health have certainly improved over the decades, many people still feel embarrassed when discussing their mental health and fear stigma associated with mental illness that could affect their standing in the community or their career.

Stigma — Others may have a self-stigma that accepting treatment to better their mental health is an admission of weakness or a shameful character flaw, discouraging patients from asking for help. Part of addressing mental health is to overcome and reframe these misconceptions as medical care, similar to treating hypertension or diabetes, all without judgment.

Desire to not inconvenience the provider — Some patients minimize the importance of their mental health and refrain from telling their provider when they are struggling because they don’t want to trouble them or “waste their time.” While it is true that doctors, nurse practitioners, and other health care providers are always busy, our priority is always to take care of the patient first, and all of their health, not just physical health. Be open with your provider about how you are doing so you can get the support you need and deserve.

Worry that other medical symptoms will be dismissed as mental health issues — Another valid concern that is sometimes raised is that a mental health diagnosis will overshadow complaints of other medical problems. While there can be a lot of overlap between your mental health and other health problems, treating one can often benefit the other, and talking honestly with your provider can help ensure all bases are covered and your treatment is more effective.

At HopeHealth, an integrated care model is used to best address these concerns, offering same day care for behavioral health when a patient reports problems to their primary care provider. Integrated care helps highlight that your physical and mental health are both important, and both ultimately affect each other, factoring into your overall health.

Vicky Peterkin, a behavioral health consultant serving patients at the HopeHealth Medical Plaza, says, “The integrated care model is an invaluable approach to supporting patients by providing effective and efficient care that reflects and meets the whole person’s health needs. The model offers access to a medical provider and a mental health professional on the same day, leading to better health care outcomes.”

While it can feel overwhelming and scary to be vulnerable with your primary care provider, doing so can improve your overall health for the better. With honesty comes more holistic and cost-effective health care leading to quicker resolutions, so you feel better sooner.

If you are ready to talk to a primary care provider about your mental health, contact HopeHealth to schedule an appointment. We’re here to help.



HopeHealth educates its patients on the importance of having a health care home. As a primary care facility, HopeHealth’s medical team works to prevent and detect illness and the early onset of disease, provide routine physical examinations and promote overall healthy lifestyles.

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HopeHealth 360 North Irby St. Florence, SC 29501 (843) 667-9414
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