Chiropractors Take Their Mental Health Literacy to the Next Level

May 9, 2024

Chronic pain and mental health issues are intricately linked. Health Canada estimates that one in five Canadians live with chronic pain. People who experience chronic pain are much more likely to develop mood and anxiety disorders, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
While the diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues aren’t within a chiropractor’s scope of practice, Dr. Janet D’Arcy believes chiropractors have an important role to play in helping patients understand mental health issues and access available resources.
Dr. Janet D'Arcy, CMCC Assistant Professor and OCA Board Member“We tend to see our patients frequently and by virtue of that we may find ourselves in a unique position where we can identify someone who needs help and make an appropriate referral,” says Dr. D’Arcy, assistant professor at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC) and OCA Board Member. “So even though mental health disorders are not within our scope of practice to treat, if we’re not acknowledging, addressing, identifying and trying to assist our patients in getting access to resources, we may only be focusing on half the problem.”
That’s why Dr. D’Arcy believes it’s crucial that chiropractors are knowledgeable about how mental health issues like depression and anxiety affect people and contribute to their experiences with chronic pain. “We need to be proactive in trying to help our patients get the help they need so the mental health aspect of their condition can be addressed by the appropriate practitioner. Then we as chiropractors can address the Musculoskeletal aspect of their condition and provide better outcomes for our patients.”
A certified mental health first aid instructor, Dr. D’Arcy is a fierce advocate for mental health literacy within the profession. At CMCC, she has helped raise awareness of common mental health issues through the Mental Health First Aid Course, ensuring the next generation of chiropractors have the strategies and tools they need to support a patient or team member. This fall, Dr. D’Arcy will also be co-instructing a new continuing education course called Psychologically Informed Practice, designed to help clinicians identify psychosocial obstacles their patients face and address them using both cognitive and behavioural strategies.
“I think it’s not only important for us to recognize the signs that someone may need help, but also understand that it’s okay to ask for help — and that applies not only to our patients, but to our colleagues, friends and family too,” says Dr. D’Arcy.
The 2024 Mental Health Week theme is centred on compassion and a call to be kind. According to Dr. D’Arcy, it all starts with creating an open, inclusive environment where people feel comfortable talking. “We need to listen to people and encourage them to share, but we also need to be mindful of the way we speak about mental health and about people with mental health issues,” she says. “Words matter and language can really stigmatize and minimize the experiences of people who have mental health conditions.”
Access our mental health supports page for more information.