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5 Ways Physicians Can Celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month in 2021

Physicians have one of the most stressful jobs in the world. Being responsible for life and death situations daily is no easy task. According to a recent study by JAMA, more than 300 physicians lose their lives to suicide due to stress and mental health problems. Similarly, another study found the number closer to 400 yearly. In either case, that number is way too high. So the question stands, how can we help reduce stress and minimize physician mental health problems.

In this article, we’ll walk you through understanding physician mental health problems and how you can minimize the damage with the right strategies.

May is celebrated as “Mental Health Month’ throughout the world. While most campaigns focus on the mental health problems of consumers, let’s not forget physician mental health either. According to a recent study, most institutes overlook the mental health problems of American physicians and doctors. This puts them under a lot of strain that eventually leads to a bigger mental health problem(s).

Dr. Emma Thurston talked about physician mental health problems in which she said:

"Learn to say no and prioritize your own health – I think as a profession, we often neglect looking after ourselves. It isn’t selfish to practice self-care. In fact, it makes you more able to care for your own family, friends, and patients."
Dr. Emma Thurston

Understanding mental health problems

According to a recent survey by MD Linx, US physicians have a challenging time coping with chronic illnesses, including mental health. Even more alarming, many physicians blamed work-related stress for their crumbling mental health. This survey also shows that almost 15.6% of physicians deal with clinical depression and similar mental health problems, which was almost twice the national average of 8.1%.

According to a physician suffering from clinical depression:

“I think physicians are held to standards which are not human, so we battle to be superhuman, to avoid litigation, keep employment, and pay off loans.”

Keeping this in mind, many of us might think that increasing awareness of mental health problems might solve the problem or at least minimize it. But despite spreading awareness, researchers have found that many doctors do not receive the mental health treatment or medications they need.

Researchers from General Hospital Psychiatry found that physicians with clinical depression don’t take antidepressants as regularly as they should. Researchers examined the toxicology results from postmortem death reports of doctors who died by suicide and found that they were more likely to take benzodiazepines and barbiturates but did not take antidepressants or antipsychotics.

“Inadequate treatment and increased problems related to job stress may be potentially modifiable risk factors to reduce suicidal death among physicians.”
Katherine J. Gold

The next generation of doctors

Suicide and depression are not unique to the ranks of practicing doctors. There seems to be a connection between mental health problems and the physician training process.

The JAMA study investigated resident physician studies published between 1963 and 2015 in order to better understand the problem. After analyzing data from 17,560 residents, investigators found that 28.8% of those surveyed were depressed or displayed depressive symptoms. Researchers also found that estimates of depression varied with assessment from 20.9% to 43.2%, depending on the method used.

What can you do?

While the situation seems grim for physicians, that doesn’t mean there’s no hope. For as long as humans remain, the hope of a better tomorrow will remain as well. Here, we’ll talk about five ways you can make life easier for yourself and your fellow physicians. 

Create a space for relaxation

One of the best ways to create space for relaxation is by celebrating small wins. For example, one of your nurses has her birthday coming up. Celebrate that within your practice. Watch the game together after hours. You can also create a game room where physicians and medical staff can go and not worry about their tasks for a small portion of their day. 

Define the type of stress you and your follow physicians are facing

As a physician, it’s your responsibility to help your medical staff identify stress in the workplace, which types are good, which ones aren’t, and what they can do to reduce it. Some forms of stress can work in our favor, making us more motivated and motivated to achieve more. Healthy stress can help people combat boredom and motivate them to innovate.

However, high levels of unhealthy stress can lead to burnout, depression, anxiety, disengagement, and other mental health problems. Employees should be aware of the types of stress they experience and learn what they can do to limit unhealthy stress, and believe in the benefits of healthy stress.

Common types of stress are:

  • Acute stress: This is a reaction to recent or anticipated challenges or unexpected events.
  • Episodic acute stress: It refers to frequent episodes of acute stress.
  • Chronic stress: Continuous or long-term emotional pressure causes chronic stress.

Sleep

Give yourself a chance to sleep before your body starts getting damaged. Our body needs 7-8 hours of sleep every day. While we can push ourselves for a few days on low sleep. However, the long-term effects of the lack of sleep are catastrophic.

So give yourself, your fellow physicians, and medical staff the opportunity to get a full night’s sleep.

Work smart with technology, not hard

We live in an age where technology is ubiquitous. The Forrester study found that physicians often spend more than 40% of their day in front of screens. Instead of focusing on doing everything yourself, invest in solutions that simplify and streamline your administrative and billing tasks. Companies like AdvancedMD, athenahealth, eClinicalWorks, all provide solutions that minimize screen time and give you extra time to spend on your mental health.

Build a support group

Build a community in your practice that focuses on mental health problems. Go above and beyond and see which staff members are having trouble with mental health problems. Once you’ve identified who’s struggling, help them by providing the right support and aid in helping them overcome that problem.

Final Words

While most physicians act as superheroes, it’s important to understand that they are, in fact, human and thus have human limitations. In fact, recent studies show that physicians are at a high risk of mental health problems. In fact, compared to the average person, a physician is twice as likely to be diagnosed with clinical depression and other mental health problems.

However, with a little push in the right direction, we can develop ways to minimize the damage mental health problems do to physicians and help them manage stress.

Did you enjoy reading this article? Let us know how you plan on managing mental health problems in your practice.

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