Depression, burnout, anxiety, grief, insomnia, pain, loneliness, frustration, anger, regret, abandonment, betrayal, ... Physicians and their loved ones are not, of course, immune to any of these illnesses or forms of human suffering.

Physicians (and physicians-in-training) need the ability to access competent, compassionate, and completely confidential help for physical/mental/psychological/psychiatric illnesses. We also need to attend more to our own struggles, and become more cognizant of the struggles of our colleagues, so that we can seek help when we should and offer support to colleagues when/where needed. Physicians (and physicians-in-training) are justifiably afraid to show personal weakness or to ask for professional help for stigmatized medical conditions or social/cultural/academic/economic problems, because in our current system the stigma of even asking for help can become career-ending. State medical boards and physician health programs (PHP's) often erroneously equate "mental illness" with workplace impairment and/or unfitness to practice medicine. As physicians, we need to work to educate state medical boards, legislators, and PHP's on the realities of physician health -- including the harms caused by stigmatizing physicians with mental illness and other forms of human suffering -- so that they don't respond by imposing additional burdens upon us.

After all, our jobs are hard enough already.

Shame! Self-stigmatisation as an Obstacle to Sick Doctors Returning to Work: A Qualitative Study - 2012 British Medical Journal (BMJ) study of physicians who had been away from work for at least 6 months with physical or mental health problems, drug or alcohol problems.

 

This page was last updated on 6/16/2013.