MDs Who Need Psychiatric Help Afraid to Seek It, Conference Told
By Steven Wharry
Canadian Medical Association
June 16, 1998
within the medical profession is becoming so severe that an
"If you were out shovelling your driveway one day and saw your neighbour fall and clutch his chest, you would go to help him," said Gautam. “Why is it then that we feel we can turn a blind eye to someone who may need our help in other ways?”
"I'm really trying to change the culture in medicine that says because of our training we must be caregivers but not care receivers."
made the comments during the recent conference on physician health
sponsored by the CMA and American Medical Association. The late April
conference, held in
views are shared by
Myers said the stigma surrounding mental illness likely leads many physicians to avoid seeking help - they prefer to try and treat their condition by prescribing drugs to themselves, or they simply refuse to seek any kind of help. He said fear of being "found out" drives physicians to hide, deny and rationalize their behaviour more than other patients. "I get all sorts of questions about my record keeping and the security of my files," said Myers, who treats only physicians, medical trainees and their families. Common questions include: "Do you have to take notes? Are your files locked up? Who is going to see this?"
Myers said psychiatrists who treat physicians can be tempted to refrain from hospitalizing depressed doctors in a misguided attempt to protect them from the perceived dishonour associated with mental illness. "When a doctor is admitted to hospital [everyone usually knows] by noon what he or she is in for. However, [failing to hospitalize] physicians just because they are on staff at the only hospital in the area is just too dangerous."
Myers suspects that suicide has claimed some physicians who did not receive the level of care they needed. Other doctors share this opinion, but no studies have been done to confirm it. A major hurdle in providing care for mentally ill physicians is that few training programs are available that show how to do it. Myers urged all physicians who treat medical students, residents and practicing doctors to complete CME updates in medical student and physician health that are offered by the American Psychiatric Association. He said the Canadian Psychiatric Association expects to have a similar training program in place by 1999.