7 February 2022
Discussing mental health with Dr Javier Quintero
Here at The Specialist Medical Clinic we offer complete care for every patient and are totally committed to their care and wellbeing. Of course, we look after our patients’ physical health, but we’re seeing increasing need for mental health support in Gibraltar as well. Subsequently we have expanded our mental health services to be able to care for people and offer them the help they need when they need it.
Our team includes a psychiatrist, psychologists and counsellors who are highly trained and have many, many years of experience between them, so you know you’re in safe hands. We pledge to always see patients in five days or less for the first consultation, and try to see people as quickly as possible.
We know that people can feel really low, but many are afraid, or embarrassed to ask for help. So today we’re speaking to our Psychiatrist Dr Javier Quintero about mental health, why it’s important to talk and what changes in mental health he’s seen since the pandemic.
- Thanks for speaking to us Dr Quintero, please tell us why people tend to come and see you?
I see many patients with a wide range of needs, but the most common issues in adults are ADHD, anxiety, low mood and sleep problems. For children and adolescents, I often see children and their parents who are concerned about behavioural issues, dealing with stress and coping with problems at school.
- Have you seen an increase in mental health problems since the start of the pandemic?
Unfortunately I have. The pandemic has increased demand from patients suffering from anxiety and low mood, who may not have experienced these issues before. There have also been a lot more people struggling with sleep problems. Fear of getting COVID, isolation due to restrictions and high levels of stress caused by home schooling, job insecurity and general uncertainty has certainly taken its toll on mental, as well as physical health. Many people experiencing mental health difficulties for the first time are reluctant to seek help, so we’d encourage people to talk and not be embarrassed about needing professional support.
- Why is it important to talk about mental health and problems we’re struggling with?
When we talk, we make a connection with others, we express our concerns and fears and we start to be able to process them. Fears that aren’t articulated can escalate and when we isolate from others, or pretend to be OK when we’re not, we can start to feel desperate and like there’s no way out. Talking to friends, family and professionals is a way to start dealing with these issues. Look for solutions and techniques to manage the way you’re feeling and know that there are people there who are qualified, skilled and can help you to solve the problem.
- When should someone contact a mental health professional?
I know that there has been a stigma about “therapy”, but thankfully it has decreased a lot and going to therapy has become more common. It’s key to understand that seeking professional help is not a failure, or a weakness, it’s actually a strength, as you’re taking an important step to help yourself before things escalate.
We’d recommend that someone seeks professional help if their anxiety, low mood or general suffering has been occurring for an extended period of time and that despite trying different approaches at home, that they aren’t able to improve the situation. In my honest opinion, the best thing you can do is to seek help when you feel that something is not right in terms of your thoughts, feelings and emotions and that it is impacting on your quality of life. Don’t let the stigma of mental health stop you at all.
- What happens during an appointment with a psychiatrist?
That’s a good question and something I think people worry about. It’s important to understand that a psychiatrist is a medically qualified doctor. During your first appointment they will evaluate you and form a full picture of what happens around you, including the mental health issue and other medical or social issues which may be affecting you and impacting your mental and physical health. Occasionally they will ask for blood tests or perform scans to identify or rule out underlying health conditions which could be contributing to the problem. Then the psychiatrist will give you a treatment plan which can include medication, counselling or CBT, or they will schedule further appointments.
We tend to see improvements after two or three appointments, thanks to the treatment plan and the therapy sessions. However, depending on the severity of the issue, we will decide how long you require appointments to get to where you want to be and stay there.
- How do you help children and adolescents?
Unfortunately, mental health problems affect one in six children. Seeking professional help early is key to overcoming these difficulties without affecting their development or causing long-term issues. The first step is to meet with the patient and their family together to evaluate the problem. I then talk to the patient alone and then the family alone. In this way, we try to see from different sources and perspectives what are the problems that are affecting the patient’s mental state and how we can best overcome them. The treatment plan is always made in agreement with the parents or legal guardians of the minors. Together, we work to support the children to deal with these issues and get to the root of the problem, so they can grow into happy and successful adults, with the tools they need to deal with any bumps in the road that they may face.
I would encourage any parents or family members who are concerned about a child or adolescent to not brush it under the carpet and to seek help at an early stage. The same goes for adults who are struggling, the sooner you admit there is an issue and get the help that you need, the sooner you can begin living a happy life once more.
About Dr Javier Quintero
Dr Quintero started as a nurse, before completing his medical degree and specialising in Mental Health. Having previously worked in an inpatient psychiatric unit in Seville, he developed an interest in mental health and has undertaken continued professional development for 28 years, becoming a psychiatrist in 2014. You can find out more about our psychiatry service on our website, or contact us to make an appointment and take the first step to obtaining the help you need.