Tag Archives: suicide

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

 

 

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

 

#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

Preliminary Information.
1.

2.

Introductions.
3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.

12.

13.

Setting The Tone.
14.

15.

16.

Communication and Confidentiality.
17.

18.

19.

20.

21.

22.

23.

24.

25.

26.

27.

28.

29.

30.

31.

32.

33.

34.

35.

36.

37.

Mobile Phones.
38.

39.

40.

41.

42.

43.

44.

45.

46.

47.

48.

49.

50.

51.

52.

53.

Social Media.
54.

55.

56.

57.

58.

59.

Individualising Communication & Confidentiality.
60.

61.

62.

63.

64.

65.

66.

67.

68.

69.

WiFi for Hospital Patients.
70.

71.

72.

73.

74.

75.

76.

77.

78.

79.

80.

81.

Compassion.
82.

83.

84.

85.

86.

87.

88.

89.

90.

91.

Prank Call.
92.

93.

94.

95.

96.

97.

98.

99.

100.

Targeted Crisis Support.
101.

102.

103.

104.

105.

106.

Clinical Supervision (aka Peer Supervision, aka Guided Reflective Practice).
107.

108.

109.

110.

111.

112.

113.

114.

115.

Supportive Workplaces.
116.

117.

118.

119.

120.

121.

122.

123.

124.

125.

126.

127.

128.

129.

130.

131.

132.

133.

134.

135.

Preventative/Early-Intervention Resources.
136.

137.

138.

139.

140.

The 6Cs (Care, Compassion, Competence, Communication, Courage & Commitment).
141.

142.

143.

144.

145.

146.

Integrating Defusing Emotions into Clinical Practice.
147.

148.

149.

150.

151.

152.

153.

154.

Finishing-Up: Key Learnings.
155.

156.

157.

158.

159.

160.

161.

162.

163.

164.

Closing Remarks.
165.

166.

167.

168.

169.

170.

171.

172.

Farewells.
173.

174.

175.

176.

177.

178.

179.

180.

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

First Thyself

First Thyself – Surviving Emotionally Taxing Work Environments

On 28th April 2017 I’ll be presenting a session at the Ausmed “Breaking Point: Ice & Methamphetamine Conference” in Cairns. More info about the conference here: https://www.ausmed.com.au/course/ice-methamphetamine#overview

The nature of nursing will mean that we are likely to be are exposed to a range of challenges.

Feeling unsafe, witnessing violence, tragedy and dealing with trauma are some examples.

This emotionally taxing environment can result in tension with colleagues, family and friends.

This session will begin day two of the conference by creating an opportunity to discuss the following:

What are the professional implications of working in challenging areas of nursing and healthcare?

How can we maintain unconditional positive regard?

Why self-care matters and how to practice what we preach!

What’s all this then?

“First Thyself” 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: prezi.com/skmu0lbnmkm5/first-thyself/#

This page serves as a one-stop directory to the online resources used to support the discussion.

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).

Here is the online presentation: Prezi

Here are the resources and references used in the presentation:

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

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

Lalochezia (getting sweary doesn’t necessarily mean getting abusive) meta4RN.com/lalochezia

Nurse & Midwife Support nmsupport.org.au  phone 1800 667 877
– we have specifically targeted 24/7 confidential support available

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

Spector, P., Zhiqing, Z. & Che, X. (2014) Nurse exposure to physical and nonphysical violence, bullying, and sexual harassment: A quantitative review. International Journal of Nursing Studies. Vol 50(1), pp 72-84. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0020748913000357

Zero Tolerance for Zero Tolerance (a reframing of reducing aggression) meta4RN.com/zero

It’s OK if you forget everything about today’s talk, just don’t forget that there is 24 hour support available via 1800 667 877 or https://nmsupport.org.au

End

Please have a play with the pretty Prezi prezi.com/skmu0lbnmkm5/first-thyself/#

Thanks for visiting. As always your comments are welcome.

Paul McNamara, 30 March 2017

Short URL: meta4RN.com/thyself

 

 

Nurses, Midwives, Medical Practitioners, Suicide and Stigma

Trigger Alert – this blog contains info re suicide which may be unsettling for some people.

Alarming Data

Click to enlarge. To keep the data handy, save the image to your phone.

Click to enlarge. To keep the data handy, save the image to your phone.

A retrospective study into suicide in Australia from 2001 to 2012 uncovered these alarming four findings:

Female Medical Professionals 128% more likely to suicide than females in other occupations
(6.4 per 100,000 vs 2.8 per 100.000)

Female Nurses & Midwives 192% more likely to suicide than females in other occupations
(8.2 per 100,000 vs 2.8 per 100.000)

Male Nurses & Midwives 52% more likely to suicide than males in other occupations
(22.7 per 100,000 vs 14.9 per 100.000)

Male Nurses & Midwives 196% more likely to suicide than their female colleagues
(22.7 per 100,000 vs 8.2 per 100.000)

Data source: Milner, A.J., Maheen, H., Bismark, M.M., & Spittal, M.J. (2016) Suicide by health professionals: a retrospective mortality study in Australia, 2001–2012. Medical Journal of Australia 205 (6): 260-265

Suicide is a complex matter that does not lend itself to easy understanding or simple solutions. However, something we know about health professionals is that they know that there are mental health services and supports. Health professionals know that these services can be accessed by people who who are feeling suicidal. The data suggests that health professionals have an actual or perceived barrier to accessing these existing supports. I wonder what that barrier is.

Stigma?

Could it be that nurses, midwives and medical professionals suicide at a greater rate than the other occupations because of actual or perceived stigma? We have the peculiar privilege of providing care for strangers who are/have been suicidal, but perhaps we aren’t so good at extending that nurturing care to ourselves and each other.

I have a suggestion for health professionals. If you ever come across a colleague who says something derogatory or stigmatising about a person experiencing mental health problems or suicidality, politely show them the data,. Save the chart above to your phone and show them that suicide is a bigger problem for nurses, midwives and female medical professionals than it is for people in other occupations. Say something like, “Suicide is an important issue for our colleagues too. Let’s both care for this patient like we would like to be cared for.”

You’re very welcome to share the chart above or this blog post with your colleagues – the short URL is https://meta4RN.com/stigma

There’s also a PDF version of the chart here: stigma

Hopefully, sometime down the track, the data will result in targeted support for the prevention of suicide by health professionals. However, we need not wait for our political masters, health bureaucracies and professional organisations before we walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk of fighting stigma.

If we see mental health/suicide stigma we should address it on the spot.

In the words of Lieutenant General David Morrison, “The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept.” As the data shows, it is dangerous for nurses, midwives, medical professionals and other health professionals to accept stigma.

alarmingdata

Support

It’s important to acknowledge that talking and thinking about suicide can be distressing. People in Australia can access support via:

Lifeline – 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467

MindHealthConnect www.mindhealthconnect.org.au

phone_hotline-40Outside of Australia and not sure where to get support? Google usually displays a red telephone icon and your country’s suicide support phone number when searching for a suicide-related topic.

End

That’s it. As always your comments are welcome in the section below.

Paul McNamara, 26th September 2016

The short URL for this page is https://meta4RN.com/stigma

Just in case you missed it above, here’s the original paper citation and link:
Milner, A.J., Maheen, H., Bismark, M.M., & Spittal, M.J. (2016) Suicide by health professionals: a retrospective mortality study in Australia, 2001–2012. Medical Journal of Australia 205 (6): 260-265

A Blog About A Blog About Suicide

I’m going to keep this short.

On the eve of the second anniversary of the meta4RN.com blog we (guest writer Stevie Jacobs and I) have finally released her powerful, gutsy post “These words have been in my head and they needed to come out (a blog post about suicide).” I thought by opening up meta4RN.com to occasional guest posts I would save myself some time and effort. Ha! Stevie’s post has had the longest, most difficult gestation of all of the posts on this blog.

Why? It’s not because of Stevie’s writing – she writes very well – It’s because of the content.

It’s because we don’t know how to talk about suicide.

mindframe I remember as a 14  year old learning about suicidal ideation via the famous Hamlet soliloquy which starts: “To be, or not to be, that is the question…” Shakespeare didn’t seem to be as afraid as getting the tone/message wrong as Stevie Jacobs and I have been.

Luckily, we don’t have to navigate this tricky territory without a map. Mindframe – Australia’s national media initiative – have some very handy tips aimed (mostly) at media. They also have info for universities, the performing arts, police and courts. It would be silly to replicate all their information here – cut out the middle-man and visit the Mindframe website:
www.mindframe-media.info

The only thing I want to make sure is included here is that we, the health professionals, remain mindful of responsible use of language in social media, including blogs (and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc) . Melissa Sweet of croakey (the Crikey health blog) has used the term “citizen journalist” to refer to us non-journos who are active on social media. I have shied-away from that label because I have zero knowledge/pretensions of being a journalist. However, when it comes to talking about mental health and/or suicide, I reckon that those of using social media as health professionals should take some ownership of the “citizen journalist” tag.

Health professionals are used to being informed by evidence-based guidelines, right? That’s what the Mindframe guidelines are. They are guidelines for how language should be used by journalists. Those of us who are blogging/Tweeting/Facebooking/whatever can, if we choose to be safe and ethical, abide by the same code of good practice (here).

Let’s watch our language.

Let’s edit and re-edit.

Let’s reflect and think about our impact. Let’s do that slowly.

Let’s be safe. ethical and kind.

Let’s do no harm.

Let’s follow the Mindframe guidelines when we’re blogging about mental health and/or suicide.

End.

That’s it. Thanks for visiting.

If you haven’t done so already, visit Stevie Jacob’s guest post here: meta4RN.com/guest02 My favourite part is the middle part (the meat in the sandwich?) which is honest, powerful, raw and gutsy. I hope/think that the edits made have been in keeping with the Mindframe guidelines. If  not, that is my responsibility. Please let me know and I will fix it as soon as possible.

Paul McNamara, 23rd September 2014

Short URL: meta4RN.com/mindframe