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Is There a Stigma of Mental Illness Among Medical Professionals?

Is There a Stigma of Mental Illness Among Medical Professionals?

Medical professionals such as nurses, doctors, and first responders face a variety of medical concerns each day, with exposure to various ailments, including mental illness. As professionals who provide care and support services, there comes into question the help that is sought if a medical professional experiences symptoms of mental illness themselves – what are common views on this? Perceptions have a major impact on whether or not someone seeks treatment, and medical professionals are just as likely – if not more, at times – to develop a mental illness than those in other occupations. Stigma serves as a foundation for how mental illness is talked about and dealt with, and understanding how stigma plays out into the medical field can provide a lot of insight into what needs to be done to further support these individuals.

A 2017 study titled, “Mental Illness, Secrecy, and Suicidal Ideation” found that among individuals who have a mental illness, stigma can perpetuate thoughts of suicidal ideation; medical professionals who are afraid to seek help for their symptoms may experience shame, which can contribute to a host of other negative feelings associated with their disorder. Shame can also perpetuate secrecy, which can exacerbate symptoms of mental illness and further seclude an individual from seeking help. This study was concerned with those in the general population and, while it most likely applies to those in the medical field, let’s take a look at this population specifically.

Researchers conducted a study in 2017 that was published in the Community Mental Health Journal, which involved the assessment of stigma amongst medical students (who had no experience in working with patients with mental illness) versus medical professionals (who had at least 2 years of experience working with patients with mental illness). Findings implicated the following:

  • Compared to non-professionals, mental health professionals reported significantly higher approach emotions (more social engagement, interest, enjoyment, etc.)
  • Mental health professionals were also less likely to discriminate against those with mental illness, and hold less restrictive attitudes towards these individuals
  • Both professionals and non-professionals did report, however, negative implicit attitudes towards those who are mentally ill

Since negative implicit attitudes are common in the medical field, it’s likely that many medical professionals are not seeking the help they need. It’s important to remember that mental health is the key to success, happiness, and well-being, and seeking help only ensures that you’re taking steps towards continuing on this path.

For more information on our treatment programs and services for professionals, call us today: 855-422-4129.

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