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Many patients with mental health problems end up with the wrong diagnosis or are under-treated.  This is according to studies done by The Institute Of Psychiatry at King’s College, London England.

Once the mental health problem is recognized by the doctor, a strange phenomenon occurs.  This is known as “diagnostic overshadowing”.

The recognition by the doctor that the patient has a mental health problem leads to a form of discrimination and bias.

With diagnostic overshadowing, the abdominal pain could be the result of exaggeration or is an imaginary construct of the patient with a mental health problem. It is not real. This can lead to an inaccurate diagnosis or to a missed treatment for appendicitis or cancer.

One study by the US National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors found that people who suffer from serious mental health problems (bipolar, schizophrenia, major depression, mood disorder) and use the public healthcare system die 25 years earlier than those without a mental health problem. That’s shocking!

The recommendation by those at the narrative medicine program at Columbia University Medical Center is to start listening to what patients tell them and not just look at what is written in the chart.

The narrative medicine program’s mission statement: “the effective practice of medicine requires the ability to recognize, absorb, interpret and act on the STORIES and PLIGHTS of others, including those patients with mental health problems”.

This type of discrimination and bias based on having a serious mental health problem must stop today!!!

( Reference- When Doctors Discriminate. Juliann Garey, NY Times Aug 11 2013. )