On regular mental health checkups

Photo by meo from Pexels.

I am not a regular viewer of The Lawful Masses with Leonard French, but on February 4 they published a video that gave me some food for thought. In this video, Leonard and his co-hosts talk about an order from Michigan Supreme Court in which the Court considers adding questions regarding mental health to the application for the state’s Bar Examination, and if so, the nature of those questions. Such questions are intended to provide information on the applicants life prior to the bar examination, including their mental health and treatment history. The video is well worth watching, and if that intro has piqued your interest, then take a look at the video down below:

I won’t get into the implications of the application of such series of questions, because I have no real experience in that regard. However, professions like law, medicine, and air transport carry an added responsibility to other, more mundane, jobs. In a very real sense, they can take someone else’s life into their hands and destroy it. It is then not surprising that pilots go through periodic medical exams. Even worse, events like the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 might raise the appeal of adding a psychological component to that medical examination. Perhaps even other options. Still, how could such testing be carried out in with sufficiently high accuracy and without inducing dishonesty by those being evaluated?

Leonard does raise a very interesting point: what if regular mental health check-ups for everyone became a thing? Just as we are supposed to go to the doctor, dentist and ophthalmologist every so often, perhaps regular counselling sessions would also be appropriate.

Personally, I’ve always seen counselling or therapy as something of an emergency procedure, but that’s because I’m not really aware of what the possible benefits of regular counselling might be. Mental health specialists take note, because that means you are terrible at promoting your own industry.

Having said all that, let’s have a quick brainstorm of the possible advantages of such an idea:

  • Since mental health evaluations and treatment would be a common occurrence, the taboo against them would disappear.
  • Improved mental health across society.
  • Possible dangers to society would be averted. If a lack of mental health can be correlated to, and be proved to lead to, school shootings, terrorism, crime and other antisocial behavior, then this would allow potentially dangerous individuals to be identified, and given the help they need before it’s too late.
  • Provide everyone with a better understanding of ways to cope with psychological hardship, as well as practices to  maintain a healthy mind (akin to psychological work-outs, if that is even possible).

However, there are some disadvantages to also consider:

  • Would mental health insurance become a thing?
  • I haven’t bothered to do any research, but have there been any implementations of this idea? If so, have they worked?
  • On the conspiratorial side, wouldn’t that give counselors, therapists, and similar specialists an easily abusable power over their patients? If so, how do we prevent that from happening, and how would abuses be detected and solved?

On the personal side, I remember that during my college days, some of my colleagues just couldn’t cope with the stress of our chosen major and decided to either leave the program outright or slowly burned out until, after a couple of years, they finished all required coursework, but never got their degree. They all said that they were interested in getting counseling, but they either couldn’t afford it, or the free sessions offered at college were already full and they had to sign up on the waiting list.

Something similar happened during grad school. This time, however, although most people graduated, very few decided to continue their scientific career, and just got jobs in industry or in teaching. Perhaps, if psychological counseling had been an option, they would have been able to deal with the stress and keep going.

I didn’t expect such a simple idea to make me consider so many different things.

See you next week.