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A Medical Student’s Revealing Essay Sheds Light on an Unspoken Battle

Twitter Summary: @JAMA peds publishes essay on #stigma, #mentalhealth and #obesity – raising awareness for often ignored health issue

JAMA Pediatrics recently published an outstanding personal essay (one page) by NYU medical student Mr. Philip Cawkwell. The article vividly details a personal interaction with a young, overweight boy struggling with depression. The boy seemed to have a strong handle on the stigma surrounding his weight (which the author attributes to the focus of his physician, the boy’s mother, and the boy himself), but there was comparatively little discussion surrounding his mental health status.

The article concludes with a strong emphasis that depression and its stigmatization are critical (but often ignored) barriers that must be overcome to achieve optimal healthcare. Mr. Cawkwell adds that the sincere time pressure put on physicians often shoves these critical issues to the side. We continue to be very worried about the time physicians have to spend with their patients, especially given some estimates that visits are now down to 15 minutes.

It is encouraging to see major medical publications like JAMA focusing increasingly on issues surrounding behavior and stigma, and we could not agree more with the article’s push for more attention to mental health. As Psychologist Dr. Suzanne Johnson pointed out this year at ADA, although 80% of patients approach their primary care provider with a mental health concern, only about 20% are treated adequately.

See other diaTribe articles below on diabetes stigma and distress: