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A large percentage of female physicians who answered a survey published in General Hospital Psychiatry in September said they had felt they might qualify for a diagnosis of mental illness but had avoided treatment because of the stigma associated with the label.

The survey, administered through a private page on Facebook, received answers from more than 2,100 physicians who are also mothers. Close to half of respondents believed they had met the definition for a mental illness at some point in their career but had not sought treatment.

One in three respondents said they had been given a formal mental health diagnosis since medical school. But the lead researcher reported many wrote their own prescriptions or paid cash for visits to avoid having an insurance company record. Only 6 percent of respondents who had ever been diagnosed had reported it to their state licensing board.

The lead author of the survey report, Katherine Gold, said state reporting requirements vary. Some applications ask if physicians have ever been diagnosed with a mental health problem, while others ask if they’ve had a diagnosis in the last few years.

“There’s a huge discrepancy between what states ask about physical conditions—such as whether those conditions affect their ability to practice—and what they ask about mental conditions, where the impact on their abilities is not asked about,” Gold said.

She notes that attorneys’ legal challenges of mental health questions on state bar applications under the Americans with Disabilities Act—which have led to curbs on such questions—could have an impact on other professions’ license applications as well.

© 2018 Professional Licensing Report, published by ProForum, a non-profit research group, Reprinted by permission.

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