I just read an article in Psychology Today http://psychcentral.com/news/2009/08/20/physicians-avoid-mental-health-care/7875.html
It talks about a study done in the UK about doctors avoiding seeking advise for mental health issues. A few different reasons are cited…….most importantly were “career implications”, ” personal integrity” and STIGMA!” That dirty little word that continues to pop up! Almost half the doctors surveyed would seek informal advise, a small percentage would “self-medicate,” but almost 80% would seek inpatient treatment in either a private or distant facility rather than use the local NHS system because of the lack of confidence in the confidentiality of that system. (not, by the way, because of the quality of care)
Not having confidence in the confidentiality of the system is something that we can all relate to, but I want to talk about the impact of stigma for even those in the medical field! According to the article doctors suffer depression and substance abuse as well as higher suicide rates than the general population. And, these are the people that should understand that mental illnesses are disorders of the brain………..just like diabetes can be caused by a disorder of the pancreas!
So, while we know that people do get better 80% of the time with proper treatment for brain disorders, even people that understand how medical treatment can help someone may shy away from it.
I can’t wait for the new season of “House” on the Fox Network. At the end of last season, Dr. House checked himself into a psychiatric facility without telling any one. In the real world I’m sure he would be feeling stigmatized. It will be interesting to see how it’s handled and if that dirty little word is addressed in any of the episodes.
My sense is there are many medical doctors out there that are successfully living with mental illness……I know of a few, but don’t tell anyone!