People with serious mental health problems often misdiagnosed: report

Mental health problems
Mental health problems. (Photo: psyberartist / Wikimedia Commons)

The diagnoses of about a quarter of the seriously ill psychiatric patients at Gelderland mental health institution GGNet were incorrect or out of date, the institute concluded based on its own investigation, NOS reports.

During the investigation, started at the initiative of GGNet specialists themselves to find out why treatments don't work, researchers reviewed the diagnoses of a thousand patients. They found that the main diagnosis was incorrect in 27 percent of the cases. In 35 percent the treatment was no longer appropriate for the diagnosis. And in 51 percent new insights emerged that are important for further treatment. 

The researchers found that during first diagnoses, things were overlooked that prevented successful treatment, such as addiction, autism or trauma. One reason for this is that evaluations were often performed "with a certain degree of haste", GGNet manager Kees Lemke said, according to the broadcaster. "Because of the enormous influx of patients and the decreasing funding, we take less time." Another reason for treatments not working, is that the patient loses confidence in a good outcome if there is no improvement. "This pessimism, which also skips over to the therapist, is underestimated."

Lemke was hesitant to say whether this problem is also present in other mental health care institutions. But he did say that he presented their findings at a spring conference for mental health institutions. "After that it was dead quiet", he said. "A psychiatrist said: 'I think that it's true and I'm ashamed of myself'."

MIND, the platform for mental health care clients, called the results of this study shocking. According to director Marjan ter Avest, you can assume that the same thing is happening at other institutions in the rest of the country. "You can be sure that it applies to a large group of patients", she said to NOS. She calls for more time to be taken when treating seriously ill patients. And if recovery fails, therapists should call in a second opinion more often. 

Ter Avest also hopes that other mental health institutions will carry out similar research. 

The GGNet study resulted in 165 patients being able to go home. Forty of them were already recovered enough to go home. For the rest, their recovery progressed to such an extent after a treatment change that their treatment can be taken over by house doctors and other carers. For the patients whose diagnoses were adjusted, new treatment has not yet begun in most cases, according to the broadcaster. This is due to waiting lists, especially for trauma treatment. 60 extra specialists were hired to help deal with this. 

GGNet also launched a re-diagnosis project for a new group of 1,000 patients.