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Medicine and mental illness: how can the obstacles sick doctors face be overcome?

  • Anonymous
Summary

One in four of the UK population is expected to have a mental health problem at some time in their lives. There is no reason to believe that this statistic should not apply to doctors just as it does to everyone else. This paper discusses the obstacles to accessing treatment that doctors with mental ill health face, and goes on to consider potential solutions to these problems. There is a great pool of talent within the field of medicine and those doctors with mental health problems often have increased empathy as well as professional expertise. This article sets out to demonstrate that there are ways of supporting these doctors and enabling them to overcome their illnesses and regain satisfaction in their work.

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Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
The Psychiatrist (tp@rcpsych.ac.uk)
Footnotes
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The author of this article wishes to remain anonymous

1

See editorial, pp. 81–84, this issue.

Declaration of interest

The author has schizoaffective disorder and has received treatment while a doctor.

Footnotes
References
Hide All

The author of this article wishes to remain anonymous

1 See editorial, pp. 81–84, this issue.

Declaration of interest

The author has schizoaffective disorder and has received treatment while a doctor.

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BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 1758-3209
  • EISSN: 1758-3217
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin
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Medicine and mental illness: how can the obstacles sick doctors face be overcome?

  • Anonymous
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eLetters

Would we judge a patient for being mentally unwell thus why judge ourselves?

Victoria A Ribbons, Mental Health Service User/Final Year Medical Student (currently interrupting studies)
16 April 2012

I thought this paper was a breath of fresh air and highlighted key common problems surrounding medicine and mental health. I could fully empathise with the author. I became unwell whilst at medical school and refrained from seeking help initially, feeling that I would be asked to leave. In fact, when the truth came out the medical school were extremely supportive and I regret not seeking help earlier. I agree with many of the comments made regarding treatment by other professionals. For me, my husband is a doctor which doubled the amount of doctors we know. Usually Iwas left with little option but to be treated by someone I know. Sometimesthis worked out well and sometimes it left me feeling foolish and upset. Ifeel 'stigma' is the much the essence of our own prejudices and that especially as medics we can tend to set a rather 'raised bar'. I think forthis to be broken down the more openly mental health illness is discussed in medicine, particularly within training schemes and during medical school, the less daunting it becomes. This will of course involve medics speaking out about their illnesses and helping eliminate that we are not infallible, yet perhaps more vulnerable. It was indicated to me on many occasions by healthcare professionals that I must avoid admission as an in-patient 'as it would not be good for me as medic' - I can see why the actof protection was thought best for me. My husband as a medic too had extrapressure placed on him to care for me at home. In the end the inevitable came, I became extremely unwell and had a lengthy in-patient stay - I do often wonder whether if I had been admitted earlier whether my illness would have taken the same progression. One benefit of working within the NHS is the access to the Occupational Health Service, I have had treatmentfunded that I would not have got otherwise (e.g. psychotherapy). I think regarding the GMC references, it is incredibly hard. When you have worked so hard for many years and your career could face jeopardy - Yet would youshy away from seeking help if you broke a bone? I very much think honesty is the best policy and if at the end of the day you are not fit to work (for whatever reason) then a patient's safety is paramount. However, by admitting there are problems early on and being honest and seeking help through the correct avenues I believe leaves you in good stead. I think the more medics that do this and prove you can suffer mental illness, recover and continue a career in medicine and then speak out, holds great hope. I also think by suffering from any illness can provide you will valuable future skills and empathy. I wish the author well and thank you for making that step at being a medic and speaking out.

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Conflict of interest: None declared

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