Do Mental Health Workers Take Their Own Advice?

Mental health workers and professionals working within the mental health field are well trained on the consequences of unaddressed mental health problems. When psychological issues are left untreated, they can progress and symptoms associated with these issues can become exacerbated. The end results are risk of deterioration to quality of life and functional impairment.

In the clinical realm, mental health workers are well aware of these outcomes and work hard to encourage people in their care to adhere to treatment recommendations and protocols. But according to a recent study conducted by Sarah M. Ketelaar of the Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, mental health workers don’t always take their own advice. Ketelaar recently evaluated the attrition rates and outcome measures of an electronic mental health (EMH) method of workers health surveillance (WHS). Using a sample of 178 intervention participants (IG) and 188 control participants (CG), Ketelaar assessed mental health of the workers and provided education, awareness, and self-help tools to those in the intervention group.

Of all the participants, Ketelaar found that 82% had some form of work functioning (WF) or mental health (MH) impairment. The IG participants received direction and resources designed to improve their mental health, but only 6% followed the EMH protocol at all. The remaining participants did not.

This finding is disturbing, as those charged with caring for individuals with mental health issues are often exposed to stressors and situations that could cause psychological distress. Many of the participants in this study had posttraumatic stress, depression, anxiety, and other serious mental health problems. Yet few chose to take advantage of and participate in readily available self-help treatment. Despite that fact, 36% of IG individuals and 28% of the CG individuals all showed some improvement in WF, but not MH. The only difference in outcomes was a marked improvement between month 3 and 6 for the IG, but not the CG participants.

Ketelaar said, “Since the EMH interventions themselves were hardly followed, this suggests that the other elements of the complete EMH-approach—possibly increasing awareness—might have had some (delayed) effect on work functioning.” In conclusion, these findings raise questions regarding accessibility and viability of programs designed to enhance the well-being of mental health workers.

Ketelaar, S.M., Nieuwenhuijsen, K., Gärtner, F.R., Bolier, L., Smeets, O., et al. (2013). Effect of an e-mental health approach to workers’ health surveillance versus control group on work functioning of hospital employees: A Cluster-RCT. PLoS ONE 8(9): e72546. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072546

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  • ronni

    October 9th, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    No it’s kind of like doctors who are always harping to their patients to exercise and live healthier and yet they are the first ones in line at the buffet but never the gym!

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