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If you are hesitant to talk to your own health care provider about your mental health, you're not alone. A new study coming from University of California- Davis, has shown that a surprisingly large number of people don't talk to their doctors about their feelings of depression, during checkups or annual visits.
More than one thousand people were surveyed and asked if they discussed any feelings of depression they may have with their doctors, and 43 percent of those surveyed said they did not. Their reasons were varied and understandable, since mental illness still carries a stigma in America, despite all the progress made. Patients also fear their health files will label them as mental or "psychiatric patients".
Other reasons for non-disclosure included the fear of being put on medications, their boss or relatives finding out (and the subsequent anxiety of being discriminated against or spoken about behind their backs), and the feeling that they should be at the doctor's office for physical ailments only. And since doctors believe that depression is under-diagnosed, this percentage is probably even higher.
According to the co-author of the study, Richard Kravitz, M.D., a professor of internal medicine at the University of California, Davis, doctors need to be open to discussing mental health with their patients. Leaving informational pamphlets or offering questionnaires can help draw information from otherwise reluctant patients.
Because depression can cause physical problems like weight loss or gain, insomnia, loss of libido, experts recommend that doctors and nurses examine if depression could be a reason for these symptoms. Another good idea is for health care providers to ask the patient about how she's feeling emotionally, as well as physically, as a matter of course.
Both patient and health care provider need to move past any kind of taboo in talking about mental health so that the patient is more likely to come forth, looking for help. Having plenty of information about mental health in waiting rooms can help with this as well as some well-placed questions during a visit.