Mental Health Within Doctors: The Dark Side & How We Can Shed Light
written by: Pamela George
Long hours, sleepless nights, adrenaline from stressful situations and constant focus: As pre-meds, we are already getting a taste of the amount of dedication it takes to be a doctor. Though many would think that it takes someone to be mentally “strong” to pursue a career as demanding as a physician, mental health advocates would argue that this is the wrong way to think. Consider this real life story:
A successful neurosurgeon is at the height of her career when slowly, she begins to feel sad; the workload is putting a toll on her emotional health; and she feels alone. She doesn’t talk to anyone about the way she is feeling, denying it — as vocalizing may make the problem more serious. Going on, feeling worse, and even feeling depressed on a daily basis, she finally sought for help and realized that it was hard for doctors to receive mental treatment. Her name was Dr. Liz Miller and was voted Mind’s Mental Health Champion of the Year in 2008, as a result of her efforts to increase the availability of mental health to practitioners.
Recognizing the crucial need for mental health support among healthcare professionals, Dr. Liz Miller’s advocacy shed light on an issue that often goes unnoticed. The story of her struggles resonates with many doctors and serves as a reminder that seeking help should never be seen as a sign of weakness, but rather as a necessary step towards overall well-being. The demanding nature of the medical field can take a toll on even the most resilient individuals, and healthcare providers need to prioritize their mental health. Organizations like WhiteSands rehab centers in Florida are playing a crucial role in providing comprehensive programs and resources tailored to anyone, offering a safe and supportive environment for addressing mental health concerns and receiving specialized care.
In recent years, there has been growing interest in the potential of CBD, a non-psychoactive compound found in marijuana, to help with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. While research is still ongoing, many individuals have reported positive experiences with using CBD products, such as those available at organiccbdnugs.com, to manage their symptoms. However, it is important to note that the use of marijuana and its compounds for mental health treatment is still a controversial topic, and individuals should consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating it into their treatment plan. Nonetheless, it is promising to see more options becoming available for individuals struggling with mental health conditions, including healthcare practitioners like Dr. Liz Miller who may benefit from access to these alternative treatment options.
It’s hard to believe that professionals who take care of others do not take care of themselves, but the blame should not be put on individuals. Here are some interesting statistics regarding the mental health of healthcare professionals.
- Over 50% of doctors admit to experiencing burnout (defined as work-related emotional exhaustion).
- Compared to the general population, suicide is 130% more likely in female and 40% more likely in male doctors.
- It is estimated that only 35% of doctors have a regular source of healthcare.
Thinking that someone has contracted a mental disease* based on their personal strength is equally as illogical as blaming someone for being more susceptible to a physical disease such as cancer; external factors must always be considered.
Let’s break the social stigma surrounding mental health challenges and encourage students in pre-med programs to speak up about their own struggles and listen to peers who may be in emotional distress. By creating a safe and supportive community, we can help reduce the negative impact of mental health issues on our colleagues’ academic and personal lives. This is particularly important for those in iop programs who may be managing their mental health while also pursuing their education. As future doctors and advocates for mental health, we can lead by example and help create a more inclusive and accepting healthcare system.
*Disease often implies a physical abnormal disorder. Despite “disorder” being a common terminology for mental health problems, it retracts the graveness and removes the possibility of curing it. Mental health may also be a physical abnormality.
Learn more about mental health within doctors with these sources:
Ashraf F, Ahmad H, Shakeel M, Aftab S, Masood A. Mental health problems and psychological burnout in Medical Health Practitioners: A study of associations and triadic comorbidity. Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences. 2019;35(6):1558-1564. doi:10.12669/pjms.35.6.444.
Gerada, C. (2018). Doctors, suicide and mental illness. BJPsych Bulletin, 42(4), 165-168. doi:10.1192/bjb.2018.11
O’Hara M. Interview: Dr Liz Miller on mental health. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2008/jun/11/mental.health. Published June 10, 2008.
Outhoff K. Depression in doctors: A bitter pill to swallow. South African Family Practice. 2019;61:S11-S14. doi:10.1080/20786190.2019.1610232.