Today is World Mental Health Day and I wanted to talk about the impact that skin conditions can have on mental health.
This topic is something I’ve spoken about a lot on this blog (‘Skin conditions don’t kill you‘; ‘Why I wear make up‘; ‘Unhelpful thoughts‘; ‘The effect of stress on the skin‘; ‘How to manage negative thoughts‘) but I’m going to keep talking about it, because it still isn’t something that’s taken seriously.
I get so many messages from people suffering with their skin who don’t think that the impact on their mental health is ‘severe’ or ‘serious enough’ to bother a doctor with. This makes me so sad and angry. If something is affecting your happiness and mental health, you should absolutely speak to someone. You are allowed to feel anger, sadness, fear, confusion, grief….just because these emotions are related to the way you look, that doesn’t make them any less important.
So although we have a long way to go, I’m encouraged by the results of a recent survey from the British Skin Foundation in which nine out of ten dermatologists agreed that ‘not enough importance is placed on the psychological effects resulting from skin conditions‘.
However, due to the logistical and financial barriers to dermatologist access in the UK, I would be more interested in seeing how GPs feel about this topic. Most of the people I speak to cannot afford an appointment with a private dermatologist, and they often don’t meet the criteria for a NHS referral. This is not a criticism of GPs or the NHS (after all, we know who is really to blame for the lack of money and resources…) but we need to be realistic. If the average person in the UK cannot get appropriate support for conditions that severely impact their life and mental health, something has gone wrong. Unfortunately, as with many conditions,the onus falls on the sufferer: we have to push, we have to self-advocate (I actually wrote about that HERE), we have to fight for the care that will save us. If enough people are coming in to the GP and saying ‘I’m here about my skin but also about my mental health’, hopefully the association, process, and ultimately access will begin to change.
Dr Andrew Thompson shared his tips for seeking psychological help for your skin condition with the BSF:
- Talk to your GP, dermatologist or dermatology nurse who will be able help;
- Although there are few specialist psychological services for people with skin conditions, it’s definitely worth checking your local area as some do exist;
- Even if there is no skin disease specific well being service in your area, ‘talking based therapies’ are readily available and can greatly reduce feelings of low mood or anxiety.
- Look online for charities, support groups, online forums and specific self-help websites (BSF website or Skin Support).
I would also add these resources:
I would love to know your thoughts, experiences, or ideas for how we can exact meaningful change in this area. This isn’t a conversation that should only be discussed on one day a year, it’s important that we keep talking until things change.
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