Many doctors find it difficult to admit to stress, emotional ill health or drug and alcohol problems.
Statistics show that doctors, along with the armed forces, have a higher rate of work-related emotional ill health than the general population.
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 misuse problem during their lifetime.
Suicide rates are also higher, 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. Doctors and dentists may also be uncertain who to tell or be afraid that if people find out that 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:
- work pressure – workload, inadequacy of resources and poor support
- demanding nature of the work – there is a level of trauma involved in dealing with suffering on a daily basis
- poor relationships with colleagues – particularly poor team working
- 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.
We don’t know how much is personality and how much is the job, but we do know that UK doctors and dentists report that stress has a negative impact on their emotional health and wellbeing.
So what can be done?
We are currently offering 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, where appropriate, access to other expert help.