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New research shows people don’t talk about certain topics with mental health care providers

(Adobe Stock Photo)

SALT LAKE CITY – Recently released data from the University of Utah shows there are some topics people are too embarrassed to speak with their mental health providers about.

Researchers from the U, along with Middlesex Community College, the University of Michigan and the University of Iowa, focused on four different “threats” to mental health, namely threats of domestic violence, surviving sexual assault, going through bouts of depression and having suicidal thoughts.  Out of the 4500 people they surveyed, 47.5 percent admitted they didn’t tell their therapists about these struggles.

Why don’t they talk about these issues?  U of U Population Health Science Professor Angela Fagerlin says there are several reasons.

“The first one is that they were embarrassed,” she says, adding that 70 percent of the people surveyed claimed this was their top reason.  “The second most common reason is that they either do not want to be judged or they do not want to be lectured.”

Plus, the process of healing may seem too overwhelming for some patients.

She says, “[The third most common reason is] they believe that they’re provider would ask them to take a second step that might be difficult and they were not ready to take that second step.”

Fagerlin wasn’t surprised to see patients may not feel comfortable talking about sexual assault or domestic violence, but, she was surprised to see people shied away from talking about depression.

“That’s something that you would imagine patients would feel confident talking to their primary care provider about because it’s more in the realm of what they would think their provider could help them with,” she says.

The solution is two-pronged, according to Fagerlin.  She believes not only do petients need to open up about these specific mental health threats, but, she says doctors need to broach these topics if their patients won’t.

She says, “It takes a skilled clinician to make patients feel comfortable.”

The research was published in JAMA Network Open.