1 in 2 Crohn’s patients psychologically distressed

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1 in 2 Crohn’s patients psychologically distressed

New research has found that only 16% of Crohn’s patients are asked about their mental health by their doctor. This needs to change.

New research has found that 1 in 2 Australians living with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis experience psychological distress associated with these chronic illnesses. Many people aren’t routinely assessed and lack access to services to support their physical and mental wellbeing.

To coincide with Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month in May, survey results released by Crohn’s & Colitis Australia found that 50% of patients reported psychological distress and 59% of patients agreed that having access to a mental health expert is an important part of managing their Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, collectively called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Yet, only 16% of patients reported being asked about their mental health by their doctor or nurse — and of those patients not asked, 56% indicated that they would have liked to have been.

Associate Professor Leanne Raven, Chief Executive of Crohn’s and Colitis Australia, said that anxiety and depression remain undiagnosed and unsupported in large numbers of patients with IBD.

“Most people have access to specialists for their physical health, such as a gastroenterologist, but only 12% have a psychologist in their team and 11% are currently seeing a psychologist,” she explained.

“While Crohn’s and colitis are considered physical diseases, their mental impacts are significant but often left untreated. Our research shows 1 in 2 Australians living with Crohn’s or colitis experience significant psychological distress — only 15% of those surveyed were seeing a mental health clinician and because of the invisibility of the disease people around them often won’t realise.

“People who live with IBD often have no visible symptoms, but the conditions can prevent them from working or going out, keeping them socially isolated,” Assoc Prof Raven said.

“The stigma and misunderstanding around these conditions mean thousands of Crohn’s and colitis patients are suffering in silence. That’s why Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month is so important. It’s an opportunity to increase understanding of these diseases and their impacts.”

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