Many doctors find it difficult to admit to stress, emotional ill health, a substance misuse problem or that they need psychological help.
A 2008 Department of Health report revealed that medical practitioners, along with the armed forces, have the highest incidence of work-related mental ill health.
Problems with alcohol, drugs and depression are particularly common. 20% report that they use drugs or alcohol to help them cope and up to 7% of doctors will have a substance abuse problem during their lifetime.
Suicide rates are also higher in doctors, and an increase in both emotional ill health and emotional exhaustion has been reported in recent years.
Why is this?
The reasons for this vary. It is thought that the high personal standards of the people who choose careers in medicine may play a part. They may also be uncertain who to tell or be afraid that if people find out it may damage their careers.
Medicine is a stressful profession. Stress and fatigue rates are high, especially in female and junior doctors.Sources of stress may include:
- high workload
- inadequacy of resources and poor support
- nature of work – medical work is demanding and there is a level of trauma involved in dealing with suffering on a daily basis
- poor relationships with colleagues – particularly poor team working
- service pressures – investigations
- complaints and court cases, including inquests.
It is uncertain how much mental ill health in doctors results from the stresses of the job and how much from the characteristics of those who choose medicine as a career. Both are likely to play a part.
So what can be done?
We offer a confidential, psychotherapeutic service tailored to the needs of doctors and dentists. We provide doctors and dentists with confidential consultations, advice about their careers, emotional support and access to other expert help where appropriate.