Mental Health


Mandy Kloppers

Psychologist who gets depressed


depressed photo

“Nobody, as long as he moves about among the chaotic currents of life, is without trouble” – Carl Jung.

Psychologist who gets depressed

As Carl Jung famously said, “We are all in this soup together”. It’s naive to think that mental health professionals never suffer from any mental health disorders themselves. In fact, a Psychologist who gets depressed has a more comprehensive approach towards dealing with depression in their clients.

I am human, experiencing the same trauma and difficulties as everyone else. I do however have more understanding of what I am going through and this self awareness helps me to cope better but it does not make me immune to the emotional experiences that we all face in life – rejection, failure, self doubt and so on. Depression runs in my family and I have dealt with it on and off since my early teens.

Mental health professionals have just as many issues as the general population, although I imagine very few would admit to this. I often hear people say to me,”Well you shouldn’t have any problems, you’re a Psychologist.” If only it was that simple. This is such an ignorant statement – if this was true, I am sure it would’ve been included in the school curriculum by now and we would have a perfect world with perfect people in it who always did the right thing…yeah right. What a load of nonsense.

As a Psychologist who gets depressed, I have a very good understanding of what it feels like to be depressed. I can truly empathise with clients and it makes the whole experience for a client more personable. I can relate to what they say from personal experience and when I am in the throes of a depressive episode, I do my best to find effective ways to alleviate the symptoms – almost like a personal experiment that will lead to theories and help for my clients. I see it an invaluable in my quest for a better experience of life.

An American Psychiatric Association study concluded that ‘”psychologists who get depressed often select psychiatry/psychology as a speciality.”  In a 1993 study, James Guy, Ph.D., dean of the School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary, compared the early childhood experiences of female psychotherapists to those of other professional women. The therapists reported higher rates of family dysfunction, parental alcoholism, sexual and physical abuse, and parental death or psychiatric hospitalization than did their professional counterparts. And a 1992 survey of male and female therapists found that more than two-thirds of the women and one-third of the men reported having experienced some form of sexual or physical abuse in early life. Freud seems to have been right about this one: The mental health professions attract people who have suffered.

It seems a logical next step to want to understand and learn what makes people behave in the way they do. I know that I live, breathe and think theories of human behaviour on a daily basis (don’t I sound exciting hehe). I am constantly trying to understand triggers of behaviour, social conditioning and the dynamics of relationships, this doesn’t however make me immune to life.

Psychologists and suicide

Bruno Bettelheim. Paul Federn. Wilhelm Stekel. Victor Tausk. Lawrence Kohlberg. Perhaps you recognize one or two of the names. They’re all prominent mental health professionals who, like Freud, committed suicide.

According to psychologist David Lester, Ph.D., director of the Center for the Study of Suicide, mental health professionals kill themselves at an abnormally high rate.

One out of every four psychologists has suicidal feelings at times, according to one survey, and as many as one in 16 may have attempted suicide. The only published data—now nearly 25 years old—on actual suicides among psychologists showed a rate of suicide for female psychologists that’s three times that of the general population, although the rate among male psychologists was not higher than expected by chance.

Further studies of suicides by psychologists have been difficult to conduct, says Lester, largely because the main professional body for psychologists, the American Psychological Association APA), hasn’t released any relevant data since about 1970. Why? “The APA doesn’t want anyone to know that there are distressed psychologists,” insists University of Iowa psychologist Peter Nathan, Ph.D., a former member of an APA committee on “troubled” psychologists.

Most Psychologists who get depression are trained in recognising weakness within themselves and they also attend clinical supervision where they can be monitored. There are safeguards in place to protect clients. I have never seen the fact that I get depressed as a negative in my work. I see it as a huge positive, I wish other mental health professionals would be more open about this too. Being more open and accepting of not being immune to life would lead to better monitoring and safeguards could be put in place to keep therapists and clients safe.

Mandy X