Dr. Betsy W Williams discussed the high rates of depression, burnout, and suicidal ideation in medical students, residents, and doctors at a recent state medical board meeting. Dr. Williams also discussed other mental health issues that are prominent in physicians across the educational continuum. She reviewed the mission of state medical boards which includes to protect the public by ensuring the quality, integrity and safety of health care provided by physicians.(FSMB) The question then is how is this balanced with getting physicians who have medical and/or mental health issues potentially impacting their workplace performance the help that they need?
She reviewed the many barriers to medical students, residents, and doctors getting the treatment they need. These include but are not limited to, stigmas, the fallacy of invincibility, shame, embarrassment, lack of time, lack of knowledge of resources, worry about consequences at work and worry about licensing board. There are significant attitudinal barriers to mental health help seeking. Males demonstrate less positive attitudes toward seeking help in order to avoid talking about stressful events and painful feelings because of masculine norms and stigma. This stigma is particularly pronounced in doctors and was even discussed recently by Dr. Adam Hill in a news article http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/media/93278043-132.html.
She reviewed recent papers that looked at the relationship between how questions about medical and mental health are asked on licensing board applications and how these relate to attitudes and help seeking behaviors. (link)
At the end Dr. Williams and the board discussed potential methods to allow doctors to get the help they need. This was discussed at the individual level (medical student, resident, doctor) as well as at the organizational level (medical school, residency programs, hospitals, regulatory authorizes).
For more information or further discussion please reach out to Dr. Williams. Contact Us