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Chances are your NHS psychologist is depressed too

The Times today reports; 
Half of all NHS psychologists should be on the couch themselves, according to a study that found high rates of depression in the profession.

It discovered that 46 per cent were suffering from depression, with one quarter describing their illness as chronic. Even more — 49 per cent — suffered from low self-esteem and said that they felt like failures. Three quarters found their jobs very stressful.

The findings are worrying because many of the therapists involved will be treating depressed patients using cognitive behavioural therapy, which relies on a psychologist being upbeat and positive. Patients who realise that their therapist is depressed could doubt whether the treatment will work.

“The overall picture is one of burnout, low morale and worrying levels of stress and depression in a key workforce that is responsible for improving the mental health of the public,” the staff wellbeing survey by the British Psychological Society and the New Savoy Partnership concluded.

Psychology is usually thought of as an attractive career with high levels of job satisfaction. However, with the NHS drastically short of funds and riven with targets many in the field feel that they are becoming marginalised because physical healthcare is prioritised. There is also the day-to-day strain of trying to help patients who are struggling to cope with their lives.

Leading organisations in the mental health field have joined forces to try to improve the wellbeing and resilience of psychological staff. Groups involved include Mind and Rethink, the mental health charities, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the South London & Maudsley and Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trusts.

Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes, president of the British Psychological Society, which is also taking part in the campaign, said that burnout among staff needed to be taken seriously.
“Health and wellbeing at work are vital issues which we of all people should be particularly concerned about. This is an area close to my heart . . . I have worked in, led and managed NHS services and have seen the effects of stress, overwork, inadequate supervision and consequent burnout at first hand.”

In cognitive behavioural therapy, psychologists ask patients to try out different situational coping skills and help them to acknowledge and challenge problematic thought patterns, feelings and behaviour. Its success often depends on the patient being able to think more positively, which relies on the psychologist being optimistic.

The study suggested that the stressful environment in many NHS organisations was hindering the ability of psychologists to do their job.

Common themes included a managerial fixation with targets, which 41 per cent of respondents complained about, and a work atmosphere that led to stress and burnout, cited by 38 per cent of respondents. Extra administrative demands, an increase in working unpaid hours and constraints caused by budget cuts were also mentioned frequently.

Original source:

This news is taken from the New Savoy 2016 Psychological Therapies conference at which a Staff Wellbeing Charter was launched. Read the Charter here.

4 February 2016


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