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Some groups at high risk for failure to diagnose mental illness

Although the signs and symptoms can vary greatly from more physical diseases, mental illnesses can still wreak a significant amount of pain and havoc on a person. Unfortunately, misdiagnosis is not uncommon when it comes to mental health. A failure to diagnose depression or other serious mental illnesses can be a serious health risk to patients in New Jersey, and a study has revealed that some individuals may be more at risk for a missed diagnosis.

When seeking help from a medical professional, the clinical environment is meant to help wipe out unfair bias when it comes to making certain decisions. Unfortunately, patients from lower social classes or historically marginalized groups continue to suffer from less than quality care, particularly when it comes to mental health. While this result typically applied across the board with minority or low-income patients, those who had a doctor from a privileged background were misdiagnosed at a much higher rate. 

It may be easier to ignore or write off the symptoms of a mental illness than it is to miss physical symptoms of more physical diseases. However, the exact reason behind the diagnosing bias is still unclear. Researchers hope that the results of this study will be a springboard to understanding why some groups face unfair bias in a medical setting, which could ultimately reshape how some professionals are trained to handle and treat patients.

Mental illness -- including depression, schizophrenia and anxiety, to name a few -- can be traumatizing and life-altering for those suffering from it. Any failure to diagnose such a disease can not only impact a victim's quality of life, but can also lead to other related damages, including the inability to hold down a job. Just because these types of illnesses cannot necessarily be seen does not mean that New Jersey victims do not deserve equal consideration and justice, and those who suffered due to a doctor's negligence may choose to take appropriate action to seek compensation. If a victim successfully litigates a medical malpractice claim, he or she can apply any recourse towards related damages, including much needed medical treatment, both present and future.

Source: medicalxpress.com, "Mental health misdiagnosis twice more likely for socially disadvantaged groups", March 16, 2015

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Alan D. Bell
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