Psychiatrists reluctant to get help for mental health issues
New Queen’s research shows the stigma surrounding mental illness and career implications cause practicing junior psychiatrists to withhold their health issues.
Tariq Hassan (Psychiatry) anonymously surveyed registered psychiatrists in Ontario to better understand their attitudes towards becoming mentally ill and seeking treatment. Thirty-two per cent of the 487 psychiatrists said they would disclose a mental illness to a doctor; over 50 per cent said they would disclose it to a family member. Thirty-one per cent revealed a past history of mental illness.
“The stigma is there,” says Dr. Hassan. “Even though it shouldn’t, being mentally ill strikes at the core of people’s integrity. The public perception of mental illness is very negative.”
Dr. Hassan’s research revealed senior psychiatrists were more likely to seek professional help. Less experienced psychiatrists were more concerned about confidentiality and the possible repercussions revealing a mental illness would have on their careers. In similar research in the United Kingdom, Dr. Hassan found similar results among non-psychiatry physicians and family medicine doctors.
Dr. Hassan is now surveying psychiatry residents. He hopes to repeat the study of practicing psychiatrists, residents and on-psychiatry physicians in every province and territory to make inter-provincial comparisons. He is working towards an ongoing program to educate physicians in general on the need to disclose possible mental illness and to seek help early.
Dr. Hassan’s research paper was chosen as the best paper in 2012 by the Canadian Psychiatric Association and is submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.