2/60 Patients Said Dr Actually Listened

Few studies actually look at how schizophrenic patients perceive psychiatric treatment and fewer still look at the dichotomy between their perceptions and physician perceptions. This one did just that and the data showed,

All of the participants revealed that they were given medication (60/60). Less than a third revealed that the practitioner spoke to them (11/60). A smaller proportion revealed that they were referred to a psychologist or diagnosed with an illness (6/60). Only 2 out of 60 revealed that the practitioner listened to their concerns.

The study, published in the African Journal of Traditional, Alternative, and Complimentary Medicines examined the preferences of psychiatric patients for traditional and complimentary medical care and the dismissive view of psychiatric physicians regarding such care. The aim of this study was to investigate traditional and alternative therapy for mental illness in Jamaica: patients’ conceptions and practitioners’ attitudes. This was undertaken to explore the common belief among the population that their illness has a spiritual dimension and their desire to explore treatment options that incorporate that.

It has often been argued that patients also incorporate traditional medicine along with western biomedicine into their treatment. This is to gain a holistic treatment of the physical mental and spiritual. Traditional medicine is needed for the spiritual, whereas western biomedicine is needed for the physical (Rowe and Allen, 2003). The spiritual dimension forms an integral part in the individual’s worldview that conditions the person’s interpretation, comprehension and reaction to life experiences. This would explain why individuals will turn to their religious faith when ill (Rowe and Allen, 2003).

But this isn’t news to anybody. Everybody has seen someone get sick and become more inclined to spiritual concerns. Faced with mortality and feeling powerless, spiritual issues become magnified. And the data is clear on the impact of religion and spirituality in health outcomes and mortality: religion and Spirituality (R/S) is linked an increased survival. A huge systematic review and two separate meta-analyses of the data, published in ISRN Psychiatry, (confirmed this and stated survival of frequent attendees of religious services had, on average, 37%, 43%, and 30%, increase in survival.

An increased survival of 37% is highly significant and equivalent to the effects of cholesterol lowering drugs or exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation after myocardial infarction on survival [573].”

So why is incorporating spiritual beliefs into psychiatric care –  where patients have extremely poor outcomes at present and the HIGHEST RATE OF SUICIDE of any modern illness – something physicians continue to reject? If it really is about evidence based medicine (EBM), the data points to a clear correlation that could easily help improve outcomes.

So it’s not about EBM at all. The treatment model used is not about the data. When the data doesn’t support the contemporary medical model, it is quietly dismissed.

And psychiatric patients suffer the most for it, because in no other illness are patients more vulnerable, less served, more concerned as a group with spiritual matters (a rather consistent theme among psychiatric patients), and more in need of all the supports they can get.

Psychiatry needs an overhaul. It’s time to actually listen to the patients.

Data on the spiritual impact on health outcomes:


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