(June 21, 2013) Even psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses are biased against individuals with schizophrenia who are seeking general medical care, according to a new study.
The study found that people with severe psychiatric diseases often receive poor care for their physical health problems even though they are at high risk for chronic medical conditions (“Bias against schizophrenia patients seeking medical care,” Psychiatric Times, June 13).
To investigate possible bias, the researchers presented two hypothetical vignettes to primary care physicians and nurses and to psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses. In one, the patient had stable schizophrenia and was taking risperidone. In the other, the patient did not have the disorder and did not take risperidone.
They found that all providers expected patients with schizophrenia to be less likely to adhere to medications for chronic medical conditions or to participate in prescribed weight management programs. The providers also expected these patients to have lower social functioning and be less competent to make treatment decisions.
The biases and misperceptions were found across the board – in both nurses and doctors, mental health and primary care physicians.
When we ponder how to prevent people with severe mental illnesses from dying approximately 25 years younger than people without them, eliminating biases against providing medical care to this population would be a good place to start.