While the stigma surrounding mental health is improving, its association with health care practitioners is relatively unknown to the public. Today, many health care providers deal with burnout, anxiety, depression, and job dissatisfaction. In some cases, this leads to substance abuse and, in severe cases, suicide. The specialties that have the highest rates of burnout and anxiety include urology, neurology, and emergency medicine. In general, physicians have a higher rate of suicide than that of the regular population. In some cases, the suicide rate is two times higher.
Few medical professionals seek treatment for mental health. Many physicians feel that sharing their mental health status and seeking treatment might cause them to have issues in obtaining medical licenses. Also, the competition between members within the health community can suppress the sharing of feelings and struggles that may be seen as “weaknesses.”
Many physicians don’t seek treatment for mental health disorders for fear that they will not be able to continue performing their job. In many cases, avoiding actions to improve mental health can be a professional hindrance. For physicians who forgo consulting a therapist, speaking up to loved ones, or using a medication, mental health issues can quickly become elevated.
In cases of extreme burnout and depression, a physician’s ability to treat patients may become compromised. This occurs in the form of medical errors, which can affect the quality of treatment provided. Depending on the severity of the error, a physician may be required to take a leave of absence.
Taking Back Control
To improve physician mental health and thus, quality of treatment for patients, education on and acceptance of the potential mental health struggles in the field of healthcare is vital. Today, many medical schools are encouraging aspiring physicians to prioritize their mental health early in their careers through wellness programs. These programs require schools to monitor fatigue levels and a student’s clinical hours to decrease the chance of burnout.
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