We had the pleasure this week of sitting down with Dr. Sylvia Fogel, who serves as a clinical instructor of psychiatry at Columbia University and also works in private practice. As the lead author on a paper entitled "Survey of Psychiatric Treatment Among Psychiatric Residents in Manhattan: Evidence of Stigma," which appeared in the October issue of The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (free registration required to view abstract), Dr. Fogel tackled the familiar problem of the stigma of mental health treatment, albeit from a new and interesting angle--the stigmas that exist within the field of mental health practitioners.
In surveying physicians in psychiatric residency, Dr. Fogel and her team found that there were subtle yet strong stigmas against psychopharmacological medications that permeated throughout the field. During training residents are often encouraged to experience psychotherapy first-hand so as to learn about what it is like from both sides. Many do so, and have no problem disclosing this information. There are also those in the field who themselves use medications for mental health disorders. These residents were far less likely to disclose their medication use, citing numerous reasons. The team concluded that significant stigma existed even within the field against medications: that while psychotherapy was fine, taking medication, or at least disclosing one's use of medication, made one appear "really sick."
To be sure, the issue of stigma, both in the larger cultural arena and within the field of mental health, is a densely layered one. In this video interview, Dr. Fogel speaks about her team's findings, what their research illustrates about mental health and how we might move toward a place of greater understanding. She hits on some of the most important ideas within mental health treatment, and explains how we might continue to move beyond the stigmas associated with mental health treatment.
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