How mentally healthy should mental health professionals be?

People drawn to the “helping professions” are often seen as having problems of their own. Whether this is really true, in a clinical sense, for just a few individuals or more widely is difficult to know. When I first had experience of psychiatry as a student in the mid-1980’s this was a fairly common subject of discussion.

It seems to have gone more underground now, presumably as a result of the  widening of the “worried well” concept in official NHS thinking. Psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and others may be less willing to risk being seen as self-obsessed whingers, when they work in services focused on “severe and enduring illness”.

Will ADD / ADHD prove to be any easier for us to be more open about? With 2 million adults in the UK having the severe or moderate condition, and another 8 million with less clearly defined milder problems, the numbers are similar to common disorders such as depression and obesity.

For someone like myself, now working independently, it is relatively easy to acknowledge mild ADD, which has probably been a causative factor for depression in the past. I have not had major symptoms for nearly two decades, and believe that I have developed mental resilience. However, given that most of my current practice comes from the growth in adult ADD / ADHD, a semi-experimental trial of a non-stimulant remains a possibility.

But for those still working in the NHS, a more cautious approach might be wise, especially at a time when spending cuts and political rhetoric create uncertainty. Managers keen to prove themselves as more than pen-pushing bureaucrats can respond to “stop moaning” calls from the top (1) in unpredictable ways.




Published at on 16th April 2010, and transferred to on 7th October 2011

About Dr Neil MacFarlane MRCPsych

Independent Psychiatrist providing culturally informed mental health opinion, advice, and a few new facts. Based near London, UK. Main qualifications: BA MBBS MA MRCPsych.

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  1. Back to School « drnmblog - 7 October, 2011

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