Tag Archives: emotional intelligence

Diagnostic Overshadowing

Consultation liaison psychiatry services (CLPS) are, typically, based in a general hospital setting to provide the dual services of mental health clinical assessment/treatment and clinician support/education. The clinical and education roles overlap – a lot.

A significant part of the CLPS job is undiagnosing mental illness. Undiagnosis is often correcting a misdiagnosis, and also serves to validate the emotions and experiences of people (Patfield, 2011; Lakeman & Emeleus, 2014). It is not unusual for CLPS to be asked to see somebody who is emotionally overwhelmed or dysregulated. Sometimes this is in the context of mental health problems often in the context of significant stress. Naturally, we do not want to ‘psychiatricise’ the human condition. Of course, you cry when you are sad, and of course you are anxious when, like Courtney Barnett in ‘Avant Gardener’, you are not that good at breathing in. Of course, you’re frustrated when you are in pain or do not understand what’s going on.

Validating understandable and proportionate emotions is important.

It is equally important to make sure that somebody who has experienced mental illness previously does not have every presentation to the hospital/outpatient clinic seen through that lens. That is called “diagnostic overshadowing”; which is a significant problem.
Diagnostic overshadowing is where physical symptoms are overlooked, dismissed or downplayed as a psychiatric/ psychosomatic symptom. It must be one of the most dangerous things that happen in hospitals.

The President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, Professor Malcolm Hopwood, said in May 2016, “I sometimes think that the worse thing a person can do for their physical health is to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder.” Prof Hopwood cited stigma and discrimination in the health sector as contributing problems to early mortality amongst people with mental health problems.

People, hospital clinical staff included, are often shocked when they find out that people diagnosed with mental illness die between 10 and 25 years younger than the general public. Although suicide is a contributing factor to high mortality rates amongst this part of the community, it is alarming to note that the overwhelming majority – 86% – of people with mental health problems who had a premature death did not die from suicide (Happell & Ewart, 2016).

About 60% of people who experience mental health problems experience chronic physical health problems too. Poor mental health is a major risk factor for poor physical health, and vice versa (Harris et al, 2018).

The lived experience

Diagnostic overshadowing happens outside of hospitals too. In the example below, understandable and proportionate human emotions were misinterpreted as psychopathology. The cascade of events that followed makes for a sobering read:

Eight years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder (BPAD) and recovered enough to commence a PhD. Unable to obtain travel insurance for a conference due to my diagnosis, I disclosed the reason to my supervisor. Unfortunately, he began to see all stress (normal to a PhD student) as BPAD symptoms and decided I was incapable of completing the PhD and progressively began to discriminate against me. My mental health started to decline. I imagine this must have validated his belief that I was an unsuitable student.

I received some help from the university, with an advisor indicating that my supervisor was undermining my work. The advisor was promoted. Despite not knowing me, his replacement did not believe my account and disagreed with my psychiatrist’s assessment of my mental state. Other staff and graduate students joined the belief that I could not cope, alienating me from the entire department.

After almost 18 months of fighting, I was once again depressed and felt defeated. I left the degree and lost my scholarship. It was one of the hardest things I have done. After, I was unable to gain employment; overqualified for most positions, lacking experience for the rest, and no references. After five months of constant rejections and lingering grief from losing the PhD, my self-worth and coping ability were so diminished, I made a very serious suicide attempt. I was so distressed that I could not see another solution.

Seven months later and I still have no paid employment. I have been undertaking volunteer work to regain some meaning in my life and have set myself up for the long-term with a new field of study. However, this does not pay the bills, and living like this is taking its toll. Sometimes I do not know where my next meal will come from, I have lost friends because of their attitude towards mental illness, and have withdrawn from health-related activities because of a lack of finances. Most days I cope and can find meaning in what I do, some days are much harder.

Questions for Reflection

Assuming that you – the person reading this – is a health professional, we have some questions we would like you to reflect on.

Have I ever witnessed a person’s mental health history influence how their presenting complaint was investigated or treated?

How does my workplace prevent mental health stigmatising and diagnostic overshadowing?

What can I do to support good holistic patient care without falling into the trap of diagnostic overshadowing?

References

Happell, B. & Ewart, S. (2016). ‘Please believe me, my life depends on it’: Physical health concerns of people diagnosed with mental illness. Australian Nursing and Midwifery Journal, 23(11), 47.

Harris, B. Duggan, M. Batterham, P. Bartlem, K. Clinton-McHarg, T. Dunbar, J. Fehily, C. Lawrence, D. Morgan, M. Rosenbaum, S. (2018). Australia’s mental health and physical health tracker: Background paper. Australian Health Policy Collaboration issues paper no. 2018-02, Melbourne, AHPC.

Lakeman, R. & Emeleus, M. (2014). Un-diagnosing mental illness in the process of helping. Psychotherapy in Australia, 21(1), 38-45.

Patfield, M. (2011). Undiagnosis: An Important New Role for Psychiatry. Australasian Psychiatry, 19(2), 107–109.

Seriously mentally ill ‘die younger’. (2016, May 10). SBS News. Retrieved from https://www.sbs.com.au/news/seriously-mentally-ill-die-younger

PDF version

A one page PDF version [suitable for printing] is available here: DiagnosticOvershadowing

Citation

McNamara, P. & Callahan, R. (2018). Diagnostic Overshadowing. News, Summer 2018 edition (published December 2018), Australian College of Mental Health Nurses, page 17.

End Notes

The article above is a tidied-up version of a blog post that Bec and I collaborated on in October 2018 (see meta4RN.com/shadoworiginal). This is not called self-plagiarising, it’s more like doing a studio version of a demo tape. 🙂

Many thanks to Sharina Smith for encouraging us to submit the article to ACMHN News.

Paul McNamara, 15 December 2018

Short URL meta4RN.com/shadow

 

 

Snow White, Complex Trauma and Twitter

On Tuesday 4th December 2018 Naomi Halpern’s workshop “Working with Complex Trauma: The Snow White Model” was delivered at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. I was amongst the small group of mental health nurses and social workers who joined the workshop via videoconference from Cairns Hospital. Here are my notes/tweets:

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What’s all this then?

Some people take notes in workshops using ye olde method of pen and paper. I’m not criticising – pen and paper are cute and quaint. But how on earth do they find their notes quickly and easily after the workshop has ended?.

I tweet my notes. They’re quickly and easily retrieved via phone, tablet or computer at anytime. Sometimes, if the presenter is OK with it, I collate workshop/conference tweets and plonk them all on my webpage for even quicker and easier future reference. That’s what this is all about.

Also, sometimes I have trouble explaining to other health professionals why I’m enthusiastic about Twitter for work-related stuff. It’s easier to show examples of how I use it, rather than just chin-wagging and flapping-about like a chook in a cyclone.

End

Sincere thanks to Naomi Halpern (aka @halpernnaomi1) for an engaging, informative workshop. For a single person to hold the attention and interest of those of us who were joining via videoconference for a whole day is very impressive. Also, I’m grateful to Naomi for agreeing to my request to collate these tweets here.

That’s it. As always, your feedback is welcome via the comments section below.

Paul McNamara, 8th December 2018

Short URL: meta4RN.com/SnowWhite

Diagnostic Overshadowing [original, now updated]

Source: I had a black dog, his name was depression https://youtu.be/XiCrniLQGYc

I work in a general hospital doing mental health clinical work and education. The two roles overlap. A lot.

A significant part of the job is undiagnosing mental illness. It’s not unusual for us to be asked to see somebody who is emotionally overwhelmed or dysregulated. Sometimes this is in the context of mental health problems, often it’s in the context of significant stress. We don’t want to psychiatricise the human condition. Of course you cry when you’re sad. Of course you’re anxious when, like Courtney Barnett in ‘Avant Gardener‘, you’re not that good at breathing in. Of course you’e frustrated when you’re in pain and/or don’t understand what’s going on.

It’s important to validate understandable and proportionate emotions.

It’s equally important to make sure that somebody who has experienced mental health problems previously doesn’t have every presentation to the hospital/outpatient clinic seen through that lens. That’s called “diagnostic overshadowing”. It’s a real problem.

Diagnostic overshadowing is where physical symptoms are overlooked, dismissed or downplayed as a psychiatric/psychosomatic symptom. It must be one of the most dangerous things that happens in hospitals. The President of the Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, Professor Malcolm Hopwood, said in May 2016, “I sometimes think that the worse thing a person can do for their physical health is to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder.”

It often comes as a shock to people when they find out that those diagnosed with mental illness die between 10 and 25 years younger than the general public. The next shock comes when discovering suicide accounts for only about 14% of premature death. [source: ‘Please believe me, my life depends on it’: Physical health concerns of people diagnosed with mental illness]

It’s a big deal. About 60% of people who experience mental health problems experience chronic physical health problems too. Poor mental health is a major risk factor for poor physical health, and vice versa. [Source: Australia’s mental and physical health tracker 2018]

Diagnostic overshadowing happens outside of hospitals too. In this example, understandable and proportionate human emotions were misinterpreted as psychopathology. The cascade of events that followed makes for a sobering read:

Questions for Reflection

Assuming that you – the person reading this blog post – is a nurse, midwife or other health professional, I have some questions I’d like you to reflect on.

Have I ever witnessed a person’s mental health history influence how their presenting complaint was investigated or treated?

How does my workplace prevent mental health stigmatising and diagnostic overshadowing?

What can I do to support good holistic patient care, without falling into the trap of diagnostic overshadowing?

End

Sincere thanks to Bec (aka @notesforreview on Twitter) for giving permission to share her tweets re mental health stigma and diagnostic overshadowing. Her first-hand account is a powerful cautionary tale.

Paul McNamara, 1st October 2018

Short URL meta4RN.com/shadoworiginal

Update as at 15th December 2018

Bec and I tidied-up this blog post and it’s now been published.

See meta4RN.com/shadow

Clinical Care and Clinical Supervision

On Monday 17th September 2018 I’ll be presenting to the Cairns & Hinterland HHS palliative care team regarding clinical care and clinical supervision. It is planned as an interactive session accompanied by visual cues to give the discussion a bit of structure. Consequently, the transcript/dialogue of the presentation can not be included here.  The visual presentation itself doesn’t use powerpoint slides. It uses the prettier (and free!) platform Prezi instead: http://prezi.com/gtsqjgs9zdby

This page serves as a one-stop directory to the online resources used to support the discussion, and as an easy way for me to find the presentation. 🙂

I’m recycling and combining a lot of old ideas for the session (there’s that self-plagiarist vs groovy remix of favourite old songs thing again), so this list below is ridiculously self-referential:

Care goes in. Crap goes out. Ian Miller @ The Nurse Path, 30 May 2017
thenursepath.blog/care-goes-in-crap-goes-out

Emotional Aftershocks (the story of Fire Extinguisher Guy & Nursing Ring Theory) meta4RN.com/aftershocks

First Thyself (the core source of info for the visual aspects of this presentation) meta4RN.com/thyself

Flowchart courtesy of Dr Alex Psirides (aka  on Twitter), ICU, Wellington, New Zealand, sourced here:

Football, Nursing and Clinical Supervision (re validating protected time for reflection and skill rehearsal) meta4RN.com/footy

Hand Hygiene and Mindful Moments (re insitu self-care strategies) meta4RN.com/hygiene

Joseph Heller quote from Catch-22 (1961):
“People knew a lot more about dying inside the hospital, and made a much neater, more orderly job of it. They couldn’t dominate Death inside the hospital, but they certainly made her behave. They had taught her manners. They couldn’t keep death out, but while she was in she had to act like a lady.”

Living Close to the Water (re #dyingtoknowday and emotional intelligence) meta4RN.com/water 

Nurses, Midwives, Medical Practitioners, Suicide and Stigma (re the alarming toll of those who undertake emotional labour) meta4RN.com/stigma

Nurturing the Nurturers (the Pit Head Baths and clinical supervision stories) meta4RN.com/nurturers

Sample Clinical Supervision Agreement (no need to reinvent the wheel – start with a wheel that works and tailor it to your needs) meta4RN.com/sample

Woody Allen quote from Without Feathers (1975)
“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

End

That’s it. Please feel free to play with the pretty prezi: prezi.com/gtsqjgs9zdby

Also, as always, please feel free to leave comments in the section below.

Thanks for visiting.

Paul McNamara, 2nd September 2018

Short URL: meta4RN.com/care

 

Perinatal Mental Health Workshop Links + Resources 2018

When you’re doing education sessions, it’s handy to have the links/resources in one place. It makes info much easier to share.

This is a quick and dirty updated and cutdown version of a 2014 blog post called Perinatal Mental Health Workshop Links and Resources. Anyway, with no further ado:

Mental Health Care in the Perinatal Period: Australian Clinical Practice Guideline
It handy to know how to find the October 2017 guideline and companion documents
cope.org.au


Using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale

Tips for midwives, child health nurses, Indigenous health workers and other clinicians
meta4RN.com/epd

Perinatal Jargon Busting
If you haven’t already, get your head around the lingo, and maybe become Facebook friends with Perry Natal 🙂
meta4RN.com/jargon

Nurturing the Nurturers
Info about guided reflective practice/clinical supervision as a self-care mechanism for health professionals
meta4RN.com/nurturers

Nurses, Midwives, Medical Practitioners, Suicide and Stigma
This companion piece to “Nurturing the Nurturers” presents alarming data about the high suicide rate amongst nurses and midwives compared to other professions
meta4RN.com/stigma

Still Face Experiment
Edward Tronick’s demonstration of how infants respond to changes in interaction from primary caregivers is often cited in infant mental health education

Here’s Looking at You – Connecting with Bubs Our Way
This is a terrific video to use/share with parents-to-be or new parents.
The only people on screen and doing the talking are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, which makes a welcome change. 🙂

Circle of Security
The current “go to” model of attachment theory and affective neuroscience.
www.circleofsecurityinternational.com

Head to Health
Find the right Australian digital mental health resources for the family you’re working with (includes info sheets, websites, apps + helplines)
headtohealth.gov.au

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End

That’ll do for the quick and dirty 2018 version. You’re welcome to browse the more detailed 2014 version here, but be warned: there’s quite a few dud/dead links there now. 😦

You’re also very welcome to share this page, the resources above and/or leave a comment below.

Thanks for dropping-in.

Paul McNamara, 12 July 2018

Short URL: meta4RN.com/perinatal

Post Script

Whiteboard from the perinatal and infant mental health session with CQU Student Midwives on 13 July 2018

 

Diabetes and Emotional Health

This page is in support of an education session I’m doing at EXPOsing diabetes Cairns on Saturday 9th June 2018.

About

EXPOsing diabetes is a one-day educational event for people living with type 1 and 2 diabetes.

This event will equip you with the knowledge you need to live well with diabetes.

The day consists of interactive and engaging presentations from health professionals who work closely in the area of diabetes. You will come away from the day feeling more confident, motivated and more empowered to live well with your diabetes.
[Source: www.diabetesqld.org.au/get-involved/what’s-on/2018/june/exposing-diabetes-cairns.aspx]

Intro

Paul McNamara is a Fellow of the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses. He has been working in Cairns since 1995. Paul’s day job is providing mental health support and education to general hospital patients and staff.

Presentation

The presentation itself can be accessed via prezi.com/user/meta4RN or by clicking on the image below:


Key Messages, References + Further Info

The session is an oral presentation, so I don’t intend to replicate all of the content here.

Collated below are some of the key messages of the presentation, the references/evidence I’ve used, and how to access further info.

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“It’s a Fine Line” – Myth vs Reality meta4RN.com/fineline
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About 20% of us will experience mental health problems in any given year [source: 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing].

About 45% of us will experience mental health problems in our lifetime [source: 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing].

Up to half of us with diabetes will experience mental health problems in our lifetime [source: Diabetes Australia].

Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health problems [source: Mindframe].

Depression, anxiety and other mental problems are usually multifactorial. A good way to understand this is to consider the biopsychosocial model of mental health [source: Engel 1977].

Australia has introduced the idea of “stepped care” to respond to mental health matters [source: Northern Queensland Primary Health Network].

For information about prevention or early intervention with mental health problems, often the “best fit” will be online info via headtohealth.gov.au and/or via one of the apps available via the same website [source: Northern Queensland Primary Health Network].

If the online/app route doesn’t help, or if you’re experiencing symptoms of mental health difficulties, you should chat with your GP about it. S/he will discuss treatment and support options with you, which may include medication and/or referral to one of the local speciality services. It’s a good idea to book a longer appointment with your GP to discuss mental health stuff: neither you or your GP will want to feel rushed [source: Northern Queensland Primary Health Network].

If the above options haven’t helped, the mental health problem is complex, severe or urgent, it’s outside of business hours, and/or your questions would best be answered by a local specialist mental health professional, phone the Cairns Acute Care Team on 1300 64 2255 (1300 MH CALL) [source: Queensland Health].

End

Many thanks to Claire Massingham, Events Coordinator @ Diabetes Queensland for inviting me to present at EXPOsing diabetes Cairns. Thanks also to Endocrinologist Dr Luke Conway for making the suggestion to Claire.

A quick clarification: although this web page has info about how to access mental health support, it’s my personal web site. I can’t offer direct support or referrals from here. Please access further info and/or support via the options listed above.

That said, I welcome comments in the comments section below.

Thanks for visiting. 🙂

Paul McNamara, 2nd June 2018

Short URL: meta4RN.com/diabetes

 

 

 

#WeNurses Twitter Chat re Communication and Compassion

On 21st December 2012 (Cairns time) nurses from the United Kingdom and Australia came together on Twitter using the #WeNurses hashtag. The planned Twitter chat was used to discuss issues raised by the much-publicised death of a nursing colleague – Jacintha Saldanha.

This curated version of the Twitter chat demonstrates nurses using social media in a constructive manner, and responding to the issues surrounding Jacintha’s passing with thoughtfulness and grace. This was in sharp contrast to the shrill, insensitive and ill-informed way the matter was discussed elsewhere on social media and in mainstream media in the UK and Australia.

I’ve used sub-headings in red to structure the chat as per the themes that emerged.

WordCloud created from the full transcript of the #WeNurses Twitter chat

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Explanation

These Tweets were initially compiled using a social media aggregation tool called Storify
storify.com/meta4RN/communication-and-compassion

Unfortunately, Storify is shutting-down on 16 May 2018 and all content will be deleted.

I’m using my blog as a place to mimic/save the Storify pages I created and value.

End Notes

This archive of Tweets relate directly to two blog posts I wrote at the time. If you’re interested in elaboration re the context at the time, please visit these pages:
Questions of Compassion meta4RN.com/questions-of-compassion
WeNurses: Communication and Compassion meta4RN.com/WeNurses

As always, please use the comments section below for any feedback/questions.

Paul McNamara, 3rd April 2018

Short URL: meta4RN.com/Chat