Physician Mental Health

As more conversations on mental health and ending its stigma engage our world, it is important to discuss mental health in the community of healthcare providers as well. Self-compassion and the balance between detachment and empathy are two practices that have recently been touted as essential for a physician’s well-being.


Depression, burnout, fatigue, and anxiety deeply affect the physician population. While many medical schools and hospitals have implemented plans to aide physicians when these stress-based issues occur, it is also important for physicians to practice self-compassion. Self-compassion is a form of mindfulness and wellness that, specifically in this case, encourages practitioners to treat themselves with the same compassion they have towards their patients. For physicians it may be difficult to turn the focus from patient to self; however, it has been said “to help other one must first help one’s self.”

Cultivating Mindfulness

There are two steps for physicians to actively cultivate self-compassion. The first is determining what difficulties they are facing, and the second is coming to terms with this imperfection. Once aware of their individual difficulties, physicians can begin to heal through acts of self of love. These acts can be anything that honors themselves including their mental and physical health. For some it may mean eating a good meal or getting more sleep. For others, it might be watching a movie, meditating, or going for a walk. The key is assessing what plagues their attention, change the focus from that thing and back toward themselves in a positive, beneficial way.

Balancing Detachment and Empathy

An act of self-compassion, that can be converted into a tool for physicians, is the practice of emotional detachment. While some physicians state that having an emotional association with patients can help them provide better care, doing so with negative medical results can be difficult to process down the road. A happy medium of emotion is empathy. Empathy allows for a distanced emotional connection with patients which can prevent fatigue and spiritual and emotional exhaustion later on. 

As physicians look to prioritize their own health in the midst of caring for others, it’s important they practice self-compassion, cultivate mindfulness, and balance detachment and empathy. In doing so, they will create more space for their own emotions and help prioritize their own mental health.

To read more about self-compassion and emotional detachment click here.

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Biscaldi, Lauren. “Physician Mental Health: The Role of Self-Compassion and Detachment.” The Cardiology Advisor, 1 Mar. 2019,