Doctors are less likely to seek help for depression and anxiety

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Now you’d think that doctors would be the first to recognise the signs that they themselves are suffering from depression and anxiety and seek help but the truth is they’re not.

Even though doctors may know they have symptoms of depression a new review by mental health group “Beyond Blue” in Australia, says they don’t seek help and that’s despite being aware of the possible consequences of untreated mental illness.

The review involved analysing 68 studies from around the world. Apparently mental health problems are common in the medical profession. There is also a higher rate of suicide amongst doctors when compared with the general population and female doctors are particularly at risk.

“What’s also of great concern is that doctors in Australia have a higher suicide rate compared with the general population, and this is particularly true of female doctors in whom the rate is more than twice as high as females in the general population” says Professor David Clarke, a Beyond Blue research adviser.

The review also revealed that although alcohol use was lower amongst doctors than the rest of the population, self prescribing and use of prescription drugs like sedatives and benzodiazepines was common.

So why won’t they seek help?

The main barriers to doctors seeking help include the stigma surrounding mental health, career progress, the impact it would have on their colleagues and patients, confidentiality, and even embarrassment.

“International research indicates medical students and doctors are less likely to seek help for depression from colleagues and health services because they fear it will stifle their careers and that colleagues will question their professional integrity,” says Prof Clarke.

“They are also less likely than the general community to seek help from family members and friends, or they won’t seek help at all because they are embarrassed or worried about stigma in the profession.”

In order to address this problem Beyond Blue in consultation with other professionals including medical schools and colleges and doctor’s health advisory services amongst others, developed the Doctor’s Mental Health Program.

Chairman of the Advisory Committee for the program, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, says the program will help increase awareness and intervention programs for doctors in Australia.

“It’s important that doctors are on the lookout for depression in the people they treat and that they realise they are at risk too – they can’t look after other people if they don’t look after themselves first” said Dr Haikerwal.

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