Data published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in October 2015 show worrying figures, since it is estimated that depression affects some 350 million individuals worldwide . Experts have long warned that depression has become the most common illness of the 21st century, along with stress and anxiety.
This pathology manifests itself with frequent variations of the mood and with serious emotional problems that affect the day to day. It is a serious problem that millions of people have to face, because it affects work, family, has a negative effect on interpersonal relationships and, in the worst case, can lead to suicide.
Psychologists, the most depressed professionals?
There is a lot of talk about stress or burnout at work, but depression is also a serious problem in the work environment. In this context, in addition to great discomfort and suffering, depression leads to a decline in performance, accidents, as well as continuous changes in personnel. Some research estimates that between 15% and 30% of professionals will suffer some kind of mental health problem during their working life , among them, depressive disorder.
A study coordinated by Dr. Marta Torres that was carried out in a health centre in Lleida (Spain), analysed 275 processes of sick leave caused by mental health problems during one year. The analysis of the data provided interesting information, stating that depression was the cause of 68 percent of the total cases analyzed. Therefore, it is the most frequent cause of sick leave, followed by anxiety (12 per cent), mixed anxiety-depressive disorders (9 per cent), altered affectivity (2 per cent) and other associated personality disorders such as substance abuse. According to this study, 55 percent of patients with depression are over 40 years old, with the majority of cases being women.
The economic crisis has made the situation worse
Health professionals are the sector that has suffered most from this disorder, and recent research in the United States concludes that doctors and dentists are the groups with the highest rates of depression and suicide. But in Spain, the situation is no more encouraging. The economic crisis in which the country lives has worsened in recent years and working conditions have changed for many employees.
Government cuts, no expectations of improvement, low salaries and stress resulting from the excessive workload and little recognition for the work done by these professionals, among other factors, contribute to feeding a situation that for many has become desperate .
Psychologist Arturo Torres, a regular contributor to the journal Psychology and Mind, explains: “Depression is a serious and real problem that affects different areas of a person’s life. It has an impact on job performance, but working conditions also affect the person and can lead to problematic situations on an emotional level, as well as depression. This is a particularly sensitive issue for many young people, who view the future with pessimism. In addition, Torres maintains that: “Work is one of the keys to an individual’s well-being, and faced with few expectations of improvement, many young people decide to try their luck outside, leaving everything behind. They even go to Latin America, something unthinkable a few years ago”.
Psychologists also suffer from depression at work
Because of the crisis, we have seen many groups take to the streets in search of employment and social improvements. Like nurses, teachers, lawyers, etc. But one of the groups that we have not seen manifest and of which we hardly speak is the psychologists. Haven’t the psychologists suffered from the crisis? According to psychologist Arturo Torres , psychologists are in a dramatic situation . “In Spain, they have serious difficulties in finding employment, they can’t even find precarious work and that’s really alarming. The vast majority of colleagues in my profession are either unemployed or work in other professions such as the hotel and catering industry”, says Torres, who concludes that “psychologists have no expectations for the future in this country”.
But then, do psychologists suffer from depression as well? Yes, they do. A study published in the United Kingdom states that almost half of psychologists (46%) suffer from this pathology. The survey was conducted by the British Psychological Society , and collects 1,300 testimonies in which most psychologists declare to feel burnout, low morale and high levels of stress. It seems unbelievable that professionals in charge of treating depression are as depressed as patients.
Do psychologists suffer from stress and burnout?
In addition to the 46% of psychologists who claim to be depressed, 49.5% feel like failures and 70% find their work stressful. These results were presented at the Psychological Therapies in the NHS conference in London, and the data showed a 12% increase in stress for psychology professionals over the previous year, 2014. On the other hand, cases of bullying had doubled from one year to the next.
Professor Jamie Hacker Hughesm, President of the British Psychological Society says: “Health and well-being at work is of vital importance and we should be aware of this. I have worked and run the NHS and have seen with my own eyes the effect of stress, overwork, poor supervision and burnout”
Following these findings, the UK’s leading mental health organisations have committed to supporting a co-operative effort to improve the well-being and resilience of psychologists who provide a key service to society. In collaboration with the New Savoy Partnership and the Public Health England , the British Psychological Society has developed a Charter for Psychological Staff Wellbeing and Resilience.
Psychologists are also people
After the results of the study carried out in the United Kingdom, it will be necessary to know if the same thing happens in Spain and, on the other hand, if the same thing happens in other fields of psychology, not only in the clinic . There are many branches of psychology, such as organisational psychology or social psychology, in which psychologists also play a major role.
What is important to understand after this survey is that psychologists are people too. They suffer, they cry, they get stressed and they go through difficult stages in their lives. Psychologists do not live on another planet, but they are also affected by the environment and the reality that surrounds us. In fact, it is a prerequisite for a clinical psychologist to be as objective as possible in his or her work, and that, on many occasions, requires a consultation to find emotional balance. Does it sound strange for a psychologist to go to another psychologist? Well, it shouldn’t be.