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Monday, October 11, 2010

Stigma of Mental Health

"That failure has already and will continue to come at a tremendous cost to doctors and patients. 'I still believe that the people who are the most vulnerable are often the most empathic,' Dr. Dyrbye said. 'They are the ones who get most attached and put the needs of the patient first.'

Dr. Dyrbye continued, 'Until we know what really helps them and what works best, our learning environment will continue to eat away at our students’ empathy and altruism.'”

I think part of making ourselves aware of mental health issues is dealing with the stigmata of mental illness. Cultures and subpopulations deal with this in different ways (a topic I would like to explore in future posts), but I found this article about risk of doctor suicide very alarming (click on the title of this post); if the medical educational system can't even grapple with the stigmata of mental illness, what hope does that leave for our patients? I don't mean to undermine doctors, especially those with known mental illness. Rather, I believe our society needs a paradigm shift to make everyone able to recognize signs of distress, and for society to make people, especially those who provide health care, not feel less adequate for seeking help. Interestingly, this article spoke specifically about U.S. doctors and medical students which also leaves question about international medical students. Should med students be required to have weekly counseling sessions? Thoughts?

1 comment:

Sanjai said...

This is a fantastic article Deb! It raises so many of the points which mental health advocates strive to convey.

Firstly, many studies have indicated that physicians have higher rates of suicide than people in the general population. Ironically, one study showed psychiatrists had the highest rates of suicide among medical specialists!

There is a broad range of personality types entering into the medical profession, but there is a large proportion who fit somewhat into the type A category, exhibiting a few or perhaps the whole spectrum of traits. These are people who often strive for achievement. That being said, perhaps it's difficult for them to admit to character flaws.

I also think there is something inherent in the profession as well. Being a physician, your ego will be stroked left, right, and center. As this builds over the years, it can become increasingly difficult to admit to weaknesses.

So overall, I think many factors come into play, with stigma often getting the most attention. Should medical students have weekly counseling sessions?! Absolutely!!! We should open the door to sensitive topics right from the start and talk about our weaknesses openly. The first step to solving a problem requires admitting to it. We can't continue to mask everything that is imperfect in our lives.

There are another dozen points this article mentions which deserve more individual attention. I'll elaborate on these in future posts. I don't want to make this too long...otherwise, I know you guys won't read it ; )