Doctors are meant to treat patients, but many of them, particularly the young physicians, are often depressed themselves, according to a recent study. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found that nearly one-third of the young doctors are depressed. But what are the reasons?
Looking at their demanding career and the grueling training they need to undergo, the young doctors have to tackle high stress, less sleep and long hours of work. Generally, these factors are responsible for depression in them. It has been observed that the rise in cases of depression over the years is due to shorter patient turnaround time and use of complicated technology in today’s medical system. Almost one in three resident doctors in the world is a victim of some kind of mental health-related problem.
The study – led by Dr. Douglas A. Mata, M.D. M.P.H., Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts – analyzed data involving 17,560 physicians undergoing training with his team. The data was compiled from 54 studies published between January 1963 and September 2015. The participants in the study included new doctors, interns and those who had practiced for up to six years.
The analysis was done on the basis of a questionnaire, which the researchers believed would be more honest and accurate than an interview with a psychiatrist. The results disclosed that 29 percent of the doctors had depression or showed signs of it. Another set of analysis involved 5,425 trainees who were tested using a high-quality survey questionnaire. Surprisingly, 20 percent of them had signs of major depressive disorder.
Considering a doctor’s responsibility, it’s dangerous if he or she does not have a sound mental health. With errors and worse patient care, depressed doctors bring a stigma to the medical fraternity. Although these practitioners may not be diagnosed with a severe depressive disorder, they may show significant symptoms that meet the criteria.
Physicians dealing with depression often feel hopelessness and show a declining performance at work and personal lives. They may be reluctant to seek help, especially when it comes to mental health problems. The fear of social stigma and downfall in their career surrounds them, further affecting their mental health and hence the career.
Path to recovery
Even though significant efforts have been made to reduce stress and workload of doctors by limiting work hours and introducing shift working model, these have failed to provide the much needed relief. Moreover, efforts have been made by introducing surveys and questionnaire-based programs in medical schools to help them voice any traumatic events. The resident doctors are given a healthier environment to avoid stress in the first place.
Various corrective measures may also include providing better mental healthcare to depressed physicians and those in training, limiting resident doctor’s exposure to the training environment and system that may lead to poorer mental health, and making positive fundamental changes in the medical training system.
There are specialized physician health programs that understand the confidentiality and offer assistance to suffering doctors. These programs are generally associated with licensing boards and agencies that help physicians receive treatment and rehabilitation.
However, if need be, expert’s help can be sought. There are many good depression treatment facilities. Mental health professionals specializing in helping youths with mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety and other problems can also be reached for help by calling Depression Treatment Centers in your area.