Dr. Kristen Ray knows that a person’s physical health is an important component of their mental wellbeing.
“People experience and manifest stress and illness in a lot of different ways and a lot of those ways overlap,” she says.
As Bayless Integrated Healthcare’s Vice President of Wellness and Lifestyle Medicine, it’s her job to promote this correlation to patients.
Bayless is an integrated health care agency, which means its services focus on whole-person care. It provides behavioral health, psychiatry and primary care for all ages across eight clinics throughout the Valley.
“’Whole-person’ tends to be a bit of a buzzword lately, but what that really means is that we’re providing quality care for a person’s physical health and their emotional health,” Ray explains. “Both of those things are very intertwined and oftentimes affect each other, so when we look at a patient, we look at their whole person, so we’re looking at mind, body, that connection and how to make sure that they feel better in both of those areas.”
Bayless had been providing telehealth services before the pandemic, but Ray says there’s been an increase in virtual visits. On the behavioral health side, she says patients are more comfortable talking to someone in their own home. Online appointments also eliminate the barriers of physical visits – patients don’t have to worry about taking time off work between picking up their kids from school and dealing with dinner.
“We found that a lot of our patients are much happier with the virtual services and are using them a lot more often because of that. I think we’ve seen an increase in overall satisfaction,” she says. “People will choose to stay virtual even when the quarantine lifts. I think it lowers people’s anxiety about the whole experience when they’re able to do it from their own bedroom or living room.”
Ray says there has been a spike in behavioral health visits since the pandemic began, but also attributes the increase to the shrinking stigma of mental health in general. She commends integrated care for its discreetness.
“When you’re going for your appointment and you show up in a clinic, nobody knows why you’re in that lobby,” she says. “You could be there for a vaccine, you could be there for anxiety or depression, nobody would know. I think the shame and the stigma attached to that is definitely lower with an integrated care model.”
She says that COVID has further normalized reaching out for mental health help, and adds that spending more time at home means focusing on scheduling appointments that were previously put on the back-burner.
“We have this global stress experience,” she says. “The stigma of getting help for that is lower because people are feeling like we’re in it together.”
Bayless also offers a free consultation for people who may be on the fence about reaching out for help.
“If you have questions or if people are curious about what our services look like or if it’s a good fit, they can go online or give us a call and get some more information without fully committing,” Ray says.
Whether a patient is coming in for a mental health assessment or a yearly wellness check, Bayless’ team of health care professionals caters to both physical and mental health during each visit. All providers and counselors are trained in assessing both areas and Bayless’ holistic treatment plans are tailored to each individual.
“For example, somebody might experience trouble sleeping, headaches, low energy, fatigue or stomach aches, and those symptoms can be intertwined and can be due to physical health and mental health reasons,” Ray explains. “When you look at the whole person, you’re really looking at the cause of all of those things together.”
Individualized treatment plans could include medication, exercise and nutrition recommendations or meditation and mindfulness techniques.
“Sometimes we don’t know what’s causing something and there isn’t only one explanation,” Ray admits. “You can have physical symptoms and emotional symptoms around the same stressor and that’s OK and we’re here to help you navigate both.”
For more information, visit baylesshealthcare.com.