Medical Professionals Often Fail to Recognize Depression

Two new studies have come out in the past week exploring medical professionals (doctors and nurses) who fail to recognize depression in the patients they work with. While these professionals specialize the health of the body itself, they are often the central or only contact most people have with a trained health professional. It’s important that these professionals know what to look for and how to recognize depression and other psychological and emotional stresses in their patients. This could make the difference between or the patient’s depression sustaining or even worsening and a patient deciding to find a therapist and get help.

Specifically, the studies found that physicians are particularly poor at recognizing depression in the elderly and that nurses are often underprepared and ill-equipped to recognize depression and distress in the patients they work with. The latter study looked further in depth at some of the barriers to depression awareness facing nurses in the UK. While the nursing profession is one that often creates authentic personal bonds between nurses and their patients, many nurses lack the mental health training to recognize when their patients need more help than just a friendly touch. Understandably, people in a hospital setting are rarely there for joyful reasons, so it’s likely that patients experience more stress and sadness than they would otherwise. But training nurses to recognize which patients’ problems go beyond normal worry to the extent of disrupting their lives could benefit people who need therapy but aren’t receiving it.

Previous surveys have shown that hospital staff would feel better if they received additional training to help them understand, for example, patients who are treated for self-harm injuries. Finding time and funding to support this aspect of professional development for both nurses and doctors can greatly benefit the overall care provided to patients when they visit a health facility. If patients are to receive adequate care for every aspect of their health and well-being, then the professional knowledge of therapists and counselors should be incorporated in facilities dedicated to physical health so that depressed patients do not go un-cared for in this way.

© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • MANDY

    MANDY

    October 7th, 2010 at 7:32 PM

    training’s what’s required here. and once this process of basic training gets underway,it makes sense to actually make this training compulsory to work as a nurse in any medical facility.then all will be compelled to go in for such training.

  • lesley

    lesley

    October 8th, 2010 at 4:28 AM

    its surprising that there is no system in place already to check such a thing.it can be really handy and in some cases even prevention of fatal problems if these professionals can recognize depression and suggest the person to seek help from a suitable professional.

  • Diane

    Diane

    October 8th, 2010 at 4:34 AM

    How on earth could these “trained” medical professionals be missing the boat in so many cases? I mean isn’t this what they go to school for so many years for, to be able to diagmose and effectively treat their patients? How in the world is it that difficult to see when someone is depressed and get them help? I mean in many cases it is apparent to even the untrained eye. I think that this is a laziness that cannot be cured by more education, just by perhaps someone lighting a fire under them and getting them excited about helping others again!

  • Damien Fleming

    Damien Fleming

    October 8th, 2010 at 11:05 AM

    Its a sorry situation that these professionals are mostly not in a position to identify mental health problems like depression.

    But the fact that they are trained only in their field and have no experience with mental health care indicates that they are not the ones to be blamed. Rather,it is the system that is to be blamed.

  • Shannon

    Shannon

    October 9th, 2010 at 4:43 PM

    A system to be blamed that leaves so many of us understaffed and underfunded and is seemingly ok with that.

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