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Health news and blog

    Primary care

    What can a primary care provider do for your mental health?

    How and why to discuss behavioral health with your primary care provider.

    Primary Care and Mental Health

    When you think of a doctor who treats mental health, your mind might jump to a psychiatrist or psychologist. While these providers are good resources, a closer line of defense is available. At Intermountain Health, behavioral health services start with your primary care provider.

    Beyond their role as medical practitioners, primary care providers serve as trusted allies. This trust enables deeper conversations about behavioral and mental health that may not come naturally. In honor of Mental Health Awareness month, we’re highlighting the ways your primary care provider can help with behavioral health.

    Vanessa Galli, MD, Family Medicine physician at West Valley Clinic – Family Medicine, gave us a rundown on how primary care providers support your unique mental and behavioral needs.

    “When we say primary care, we mean whole person care,” said Dr. Galli. 

    Understanding mental and behavioral health

    Mental and behavioral health encompasses a broad spectrum that impacts how we think, feel, and behave. At its core, mental health refers to our emotional and psychological well-being, such as mood, cognition, and resilience. While it encompasses conditions like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, mental health also includes our ability to cope with stress, maintain healthy relationships, and navigate life's challenges with resilience and adaptability.

    On the other hand, behavioral health focuses on the actions and habits that influence our mental well-being, including lifestyle choices, coping mechanisms, and interpersonal relationships.

    The role of primary care providers

    Primary care providers serve as the frontline for individuals seeking healthcare. We even gave a rundown this month on primary care vocab, and how each type of provider can help you. You might see a primary care provider for things like routine physicals, immunization appointments, and minor injuries and illnesses. But beyond addressing physical ailments, they are trained to recognize and manage a range of mental health concerns.

    "Primary care providers are trained to diagnose and treat common mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia,” said Dr. Galli. “They can help manage medications for these problems, and also help with referrals to therapists.”

    By fostering trust and open communication, primary care providers create a safe space for patients to discuss their mental health challenges, concerns, and goals. They can provide support, validation, and guidance to individuals navigating mental health issues.

    How primary care is an integrated care approach

    There’s a clear interconnectedness of physical and mental health. That's why Intermountain Health adopted an integrated care approach that emphasizes collaboration between primary care providers and behavioral health specialists. This approach includes three programs:

    • Mental Health Integration: Mental Health Integration is a program that focuses on quickly identifying mental health concerns and connecting you to the best resources. Intermountain’s focus is on helping you enjoy life and the relationships that make it meaningful.
    • Collaborative Care: Collaborative Care is a treatment approach that helps patients with low-to-moderate depression and anxiety better manage their symptoms. This dedicated care team works with patients for about 3-6 months, giving them the skills they need to set and reach their self-care goals.
    • Personalized Primary Care: Personalized Primary Care is Intermountain’s model for making healthcare more personalized and patient-centered. The model allows Intermountain to meet and maintain National accreditation standards, focused on providing a customized and quality driven experience.

    “These models ensure primary care providers can work closely with mental health professionals to ensure that mental health conditions are managed from a holistic team-based approach, involving medication supervision and therapy,” said Dr. Galli. “It can be an easier point of access to healthcare in a setting you’re more comfortable with.”

    Connect with a primary care provider, like Dr. Galli, and schedule an appointment. You can also learn more about Intermountain Health’s behavioral health services

    Whether you're struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns, your primary care provider is here to help. Your mental and behavioral health matters, and you don't have to face challenges alone. 

    Virtual Health

    Care for your mental health - when you need it

    Connect Care Behavioral Health appointments can be done anywhere using your smartphone, tablet, or computer. Intermountain Health caregivers ensure you get the best care, and your regular Intermountain doctor can see a record of your visit.

    Schedule an appointment


    What can a primary care provider do for your mental health?