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For people with SMI, disclosure still challenging


 

EXPERT ANALYSIS FROM AN NIMH CONFERENCE

– People working in the mental health field are more likely to disclose their past or present treatment for psychosis than are professionals in other fields, a researcher said at a National Institute of Mental Health conference on mental health services research.

The researcher, Nev Jones, PhD, presented the findings of a small survey she conducted in 2014 and 2015 of adults with current or past experiences of psychotic disorder who described themselves as having had or having a successful career. The research was not conducted for publication purposes but as part of an effort to develop tools for students with psychosis as they continued in higher education, said Dr. Jones, of the department of mental health law and policy at the University of South Florida, Tampa.

One of those tools was a closed program that was akin to Facebook; people with early psychosis could use this to “look at successful adults across a wide range of careers and how they had navigated accommodations, disclosure, education as well as vocational choice,” she said.

Dr. Jones did not ask participants about their gender and race, but she did query them on highest degree earned. The poll was disseminated with the assistance of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and that of Stanford (Calif.) University, where Dr. Jones was a postdoctoral fellow. Of the sample presented, 33% had a masters degree (MSW, MBA), and 15% had a doctoral level degree (JD, MD, PhD).

People who worked in fields outside of mental health care were far less likely to have revealed their conditions to colleagues or employers, with 14 of 67 participants having made no disclosure. Of 14 who had made no disclosure, 12 were in fields such as banking, economics, secondary education, nursing, pediatrics, and computer programming.

Dr. Jones said she received several calls from students and staff at Stanford who were unwilling to fill out the survey.

“They were very concerned about the risks of inadvertent disclosure, even though it was anonymous, because they had unique, potentially identifiable career paths that they could not lay out in their responses without the fear that that would disclose [identify] them,” Dr. Jones said.

An additional 17 of the 67 participants made what Dr. Jones termed “selective disclosures,” such as telling a coworker who was considered a friend or a supportive boss. The majority of the respondents to Jones’s survey – 36 of the 67 participants – were open about their conditions. All but one of the respondents in this broad-disclosure group worked in mental health fields.

Dr. Jones described the broad-disclosure designation as “meaning that there is nobody in their life who doesn’t know.”

“They’re out professionally. They’ve published a book. They speak,” Dr. Jones said. “If you Google them on the Internet, you would quickly learn that they had a psychiatric disability or psychosis.”

Dr. Jones herself falls into that camp. She’s told media outlets, including the online newspaper MinnPost, about her own experience being diagnosed with schizophrenia while a PhD student. The online magazine Pacific Standard ran a full-length feature about her return to academia.

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