I recently had the pleasure of attending The Vitiligo Society Virtual Summit 2020 as a speaker. Being able to continue to spread knowledge and have discussions about important topics in dermatology through virtual platforms is one of the positive things to come out of the global pandemic. Thanks to the organising committee for the opportunity to talk about the latest report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Skin on ‘Mental Health and Skin Disease’.
What is the All Party Parliamentary Group on Skin’s report about?
The report provides a summary of the impact of skin disease on mental health and makes suggestions about how services need to change to give patients and clinicians a better experience.
Who was involved?
The report has been produced with the input of leading dermatologists with an interest in psychodermatology, patient support networks, and most importantly, people with skin conditions.
The report includes evidence from patients, professional medical bodies, patient support groups and pharmaceutical companies.
As part of the report a patient survey was conducted to identify psychological impacts typically experienced by people living with skin conditions in the U.K. and describe their experience of seeking support for these issues. A similar survey was also conducted with organisations with an interest in dermatology. 544 individuals and 16 organisations responded to the two respective surveys.
A parliamentary evidence session was held, with leading dermatologists and patient witnesses providing oral evidence about their experience of skin conditions.
What will this report achieve?
This report will be used to inform policy makers about how to develop mental health services for people with skin conditions and urges them to address the issues highlighted with urgency.
How can having a skin condition impact a person’s life?
Skin disease can adversely impact on all aspects of people’s lives, including:
What are some of the psychological impacts of having a skin condition?
Some of the issues experienced include:
Lack of self-esteem
Lack of social acceptance and understanding
What are the some of the key results?
- 98% of people surveyed reported that their skin affects their psychological and emotional wellbeing.
- 73% of respondents reported a negative effect of having a skin condition on intimate relationships
- 93% reported loss of self-esteem because of having a skin condition
- 69% reported that their skin affected their work or education
- 83% of respondents reported their skin affecting their sleep
- 87% of people surveyed reported that their skin affected their social life, leisure, or sporting activities
Where can I find support if I need it?
Support for people with skin conditions can be accessed via:
- Patient support organisations (e.g., Vitiligo Society, National Eczema Society, Psoriasis Association etc.)
- Counselling – you may need to speak to your GP about how to access counselling for difficulties you are experiencing
- Talking therapies – in some areas talking therapies can be accessed through self-referral, if you are not sure, please ask your GP or check online
- Primary care services – your GP or practice nurse may have some helpful insights into how you can manage the psychological impact of having a skin condition, and they can refer you to an expert if needed
- Dermatology departments – dermatologists and dermatology nurses see people with skin conditions everyday and usually have a good understanding of how life-changing a skin diagnosis can be
- Psychodermatology services – psychodermatology is a subspecialty of dermatology that considers the mind and skin together when seeing a person with a skin condition. These services are few and far between, but can be an excellent source of support for patients
- Psychology services – if conventional support services are not making a positive impact you may be referred to specialist psychology services for more expert assessment (e.g., to a clinical psychologist)
- Psychiatry services – some people may benefit from psychiatry input if they have clinical levels of low mood or anxiety and have not responded to conventional treatment
- Self-help resources – there are a wealth of self-help resources available online, it is worth having a look to see if any of these can help (e.g., www.changingfaces.org.uk, www.skinsupport.org.uk, ‘Headspace’ App)
If you are suffering from persistent negative thoughts, or feel like you need to talk to someone straight away about the way that you are feeling, then you might like to get in contact with Mind, Samaritans or Changing Faces, who may be able to help.
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