Psychiatrists Harnessing Lived Experiences: a Risky Business?

A substantial proportion of mental health professionals (45-75%) have personal experience with mental health services.1 There is some evidence that those who have used mental health services may be more attracted to work in this field.2

The culture among mental health professions, however, is often not very open about this, and professionals often perceive personal mental health problems as a weakness, feeling they should be able to cope on their own.2 Psychiatrists have been trained to divide the personal from the professional and have a tendency to self-diagnose and self-treat.3 Correspondingly, they may experience shame, embarrassment, and fear of being judged negatively if they disclose their own mental health histories.

Findings from a recent randomized controlled trial, however, reveal that physician self-disclosure of lived experience improves mental health attitudes among medical students.4 Patients may also profit from professionals harnessing…

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