Many health professionals find it difficult to talk about mental health. Mental health of patients and our own. In many specialties. Of course, we would have chosen a different career, otherwise ...
But we do ask our patients regularly about symptoms that are not specific to our field of work or special interest. Doctors in internal medical specialties ask patients about headaches, rectal and vaginal bleeding and rashes. We ask about sexual history and orientation.
When a large proportion of our patients is at risk from poor mental health, why don't we ask not simply "How are you?", but also "How are you feeling?", "How is your mental health?", "How are you mentally keeping up with all these medical problems going on?".
Up to 40% of patients with chronic conditions will develop mental health problems. Why not just ask?
Many doctors feel it not only difficult to talk with patients about mental health. We find it very difficult to talk about our own mental health. We give it new names. We "throw a wobble", are "under the weather" are "experiencing burn-out". Fear of stigma and the stigma of fear.
We need to overcome this stigma and need to learn to discuss mental health. For our own sake and that of our patients.